Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes and a leading cause of blindness among the working-age population.
In a recent study at the University of Oklahoma, researchers found that a single dose of visual chromophore 9-cis-retinal, a vitamin A analog that can form a visual pigment in the retina cells, could produce a light-sensitive element of the retina and strongly improve visual damage caused by diabetes.
The study is published in the American Journal of Pathology. The lead author is Gennadiy Moiseyev, Ph.D., Department of Physiology.
Previously, the team had found that diabetes causes vitamin A deficiency in the retina, which results in deterioration of vision, even before any vascular changes can be seen.
That finding led to the assumption that early changes in vision in diabetes are probably caused by vitamin A deficiency in the retina.
In this study, the team hypothesized that treating diabetic mice with 11-cis-retinal could rescue visual function.
They tested its effect in Akita mice, a genetic model of type 1 diabetes. ERG was performed on two groups of three-month-old Akita mice and one group of non-diabetic control mice matched for age and genetic background.
One group of Akita mice was treated with 9-cis-retinal and the other with a vehicle solution.
The team showed that the visual function in diabetic mice improved strongly after treatment with a single dose of 9-cis-retinal.
In addition, they reported that the treatment reduced oxidative stress in the retina, decreased retina cell death and retina degeneration, and improved visual function.
This work supports the novel hypothesis that diabetes-induced disturbance of vitamin A metabolism in the eye is responsible for reduced visual function in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy.
Currently, there is no available therapy to prevent the development of retinal complications in patients suffering from diabetes.
This study suggests that the delivery of visual chromophore to the diabetic eye may represent a potential therapeutic strategy for the early stages of diabetic retinopathy to prevent vision loss in patients with diabetes.
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