Did you know that diabetes can hurt your eyes? It’s a truth that many folks don’t know about. But it’s real.
Nearly 8 million people in America alone have eye problems because of diabetes. And the bad news? By the year 2040, we expect twice as many folks to have these problems.
Why Does Diabetes Affect Eyesight?
Diabetes causes two big eye problems. One is called “proliferative diabetic retinopathy” and the other is “diabetic macular edema”. These are big words, but what do they mean?
In “proliferative diabetic retinopathy”, too many blood vessels grow on the retina. The retina is the part of the eye that senses light and sends pictures to the brain. When too many blood vessels grow here, it can cause bleeding or the retina to detach, leading to serious vision loss.
In “diabetic macular edema”, blood vessels in the eye leak fluid. This fluid makes the central part of the retina swell, hurting the cells that help us see clearly.
Current Treatment Options and Their Limits
So, what can we do about these problems now? Doctors often give patients injections in the eye with something called “anti-VEGF” therapies. These treatments can stop blood vessels from growing and leaking in the retina. But, these treatments don’t work for everyone and might cause side effects like increased eye pressure or damage to the eye tissues.
A New Experimental Drug on the Horizon
A team at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine, might have found a new solution. They’ve been studying a new drug, called “32-134D”. This drug was first used to slow down the growth of liver tumors in mice.
How Does 32-134D Work?
The new drug works by lowering the levels of a protein in the body called HIF, or “hypoxia-inducible factor”. HIF is like a switch that can turn certain genes on or off in the body. In the eyes, too much HIF can turn on genes that make blood vessels grow and leak. This drug, 32-134D, turns down the levels of HIF, slowing down the growth and leakiness of blood vessels.
Testing the New Drug
The team at Johns Hopkins tested this new drug in two ways. First, they tested it on human retinal cells in the lab. They found that it worked well at reducing the expression of genes regulated by HIF. This slowed down blood vessel growth and leakage.
Then they tested it in mice. They gave the mice eye injections of the drug and saw that it lowered the levels of HIF. The drug stopped the creation of new blood vessels and blocked the leakage of existing vessels. And, good news, the drug stayed active in the eyes for about 12 days after just one injection.
The results from these tests are promising. Dr. Akrit Sodhi, one of the researchers, said that this drug is not only effective but safe, too. But, we’re not done yet. We need to do more studies in animals before we can test this drug in people. If it continues to show promise, it could give us a new, better way to treat vision loss in people with diabetes. That’s great news for millions of people who are living with diabetes today.
If you care about eye health, please read studies that diabetes and high blood pressure can predict blinding eye disease, and 7 habits that help prevent vision loss in older people.
For more information about health, please see recent studies that Vitamin E could help reduce blood sugar and insulin resistance in diabetes, and results showing blinding eye disease strongly linked to heart disease and stroke.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
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