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Nerve Injury Linked To Diabetes-Related Vision Loss

Diabetic retinopathy

One of the problems associated with serious cases of diabetes is vision loss (or ‘diabetic retinopathy’). It has long been thought that diabetes-related vision loss happens due to blood vessel damage around the retina. However, new research suggests an alternative cause.

A new study indicates that vision loss may be the result of a nerve cell injury that arises before any blood vessels become damaged. This, if proven, could lead to new treatment options focused on dealing with progressive neurodegeneration.

The findings come after researchers fed mice a high fat diet to induce diabetes and then carried out investigations into what was happening with their eyes. Here they noted nerve damage to the retina but no damage to blood vessels.

The lead scientist, Professor Clay F. Semenkovich, discussed the findings further with Bioscience Technology. Here he notes:

“There is evidence from other studies that people with diabetes go through a phase that seems to correspond to the early nerve injury we found in the retinas of these mice.”

The researcher goes on to add:

“But that has been largely overlooked by many in the field because the dogma has it that diabetic retinopathy is a disease of the blood vessels.”

The research was conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the findings are published in the journal Diabetes. The paper is titled “Functional Deficits Precede Structural Lesions in Mice with High-Fat Diet-Induced Diabetic Retinopathy.”

About the author

Tim Sandle

Dr. Tim Sandle is a chartered biologist and holds a first class honours degree in Applied Biology; a Masters degree in education; and has a doctorate from Keele University.