Researchers have uncovered a major process linked to diabetes-related vision loss

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have revealed a key process that contributes to vision loss and blindness Diabetics. The findings could lead to new treatments that can be used before any irreversible vision loss occurs.

Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes and occurs when high blood sugar levels damage cells in the back of the eye, known as the retina. There are no current treatments that prevent the progression of diabetic retinopathy from its early to late stages, other than careful management of the diabetes itself. As a result, a significant proportion of people with diabetes continue to progress to vision-threatening complications of the disease.

As the number of people with diabetes continues to increase globally, there is an urgent need for new treatment strategies, particularly those that target the early stages of the disease to prevent vision loss.

The retina requires a high supply of oxygen and nutrients to function properly. This is met by a complex network of blood vessels that maintains a constant flow of blood even during daily fluctuations in blood and intraocular pressure. The ability of blood vessels to maintain blood flow at a constant level is called spontaneous regulation of blood flow. Disruption of this process is one of the first effects of diabetes in the retina.

A breakthrough by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast identifies the cause of these early changes in the retina. The study, published in the American journal JCI Insight, discovered that the loss of blood flow autoregulation during diabetes is caused by a disorder of a protein called TRPV2. Furthermore, they showed that disruption of blood flow regulation even in the absence of diabetes causes damage much like that seen in diabetic retinopathy.

The research team hopes that these findings will be used to inform the development of new therapies that preserve vision in people with diabetes.

We are excited about the new insights this study provides, which explains how the retina is damaged during the early stages of diabetes.

By identifying TRPV2 as a key protein involved in diabetes-related vision loss, we have a new target and a new opportunity to develop therapies that halt the progression of diabetic retinopathy. “

Professor Tim Curtis, Corresponding Author, Deputy Director of the Wellcome Wolfson Institute for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University Belfast

The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Department of Economics Program for Graduate Students.


Journal reference:

O’Hare, M.; et al. (2022) Loss of TRPV2-mediated blood flow autoregulation recapitulates diabetic retinopathy in mice. JCI Insight.

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