Public Release: 

Study explains why diabetic retinopathy is difficult to treat

Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health

Retinal damage is one of the most common complications of diabetes, affecting about 90 percent of type 1 diabetics and 75 percent of type 2 diabetics. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults of working age, and its incidence is showing an upward trend.

The retina is the part of the eye that converts optical images into nerve signals, which are then transmitted to the brain where vision is interpreted. Numerous proteins and molecules are involved in the process of signal transduction. Diabetic retinal damage leads to impaired function of these proteins. Within the framework of research projects of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), scientists of the Research Unit Protein Science (PROT) and the Institute of Experimental Genetics (IEG) at Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) have now investigated how drug treatment affects these signal carriers. They compared the concentrations of proteins in the retinas of non-diabetic mice, of mice with type 2 diabetes without treatment and of type 2 diabetic mice that were treated with the standard drug metformin, which lowers blood glucose levels and thus reduces diabetes complications. A total of 98 proteins were differentially abundant in the diabetic animals. About half of the proteins were normalized by treatment with metformin. The other proteins were unchanged, however, despite treatment and improved blood glucose levels. Among these was the protein VGLUT1, which is essential for signal transduction in specific nerve cells.

"Our results show that normalized blood glucose levels alone are not sufficient to fully treat diabetic retinopathy," said Dr. Alice Ly (PROT), lead author of the study. "In further studies we want to examine how different combination therapies affect the retinal proteins, in order to achieve a better understanding of the causes and treatment of this diabetes complication," added Dr. Stefanie Hauck (PROT). The most common diseases in the population, such as type 2 diabetes, are the focus of research at Helmholtz Zentrum München. The aim is to develop new approaches to diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

###

Further Information

Original publication:

Ly, A. et al. (2013), Retinal proteome alterations in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes, Diabetologia, doi: 10.1007/s00125-013-3070-2

Link to publication: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-013-3070-2/fulltext.html

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,100 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members. http://www.helmholtz-muenchen.de

The German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD) brings together experts in the field of diabetes research and interlinks basic research, epidemiology and clinical applications. Members are the German Diabetes Center in Düsseldorf, the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE) in Potsdam-Rehbrücke, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health, the Paul Langerhans Institutes of the University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus in Dresden and the University of Tübingen, as well as the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Association and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres. The objective of the DZD is to find answers to open questions in diabetes research by means of a novel, integrative research approach and to make a significant contribution to improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes mellitus. http://www.dzd-ev.de

The independent Research Unit Protein Science (PROT) investigates the composition of protein complexes and their integration into cellular processes and protein networks. One focus is the analysis of the interaction of genetic variance and environmental factors in neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. The aim of this research is to identify biological systems and disease-associated disorders on a systemic level, thus contributing to a molecular understanding of diseases.

The research objective of the Institute of Experimental Genetics (IEG) is to elucidate the causes and pathogenesis of human diseases. Due to its prominent role in interdisciplinary and international consortia, the IEG is a global leader in the systemic study of mouse models for human diseases and the elucidation of involved genes. The main focus is on metabolic diseases such as diabetes. The IEG is part of the Helmholtz Diabetes Center (HDC).

Scientific Contact

Dr. Stefanie Hauck
Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH)
Research Unit Protein Science
Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg
Tel.: 089-3187-3941
E-Mail: hauck@helmholtz-muenchen.de

Prof. Dr. Marius Ueffing
Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH)
Research Unit Protein Science
Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg
Tel.: 089-3187-3567
E-Mail: marius.ueffing@helmholtz-muenchen.de

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.