Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Hope For Diabetics In Treating Blindness

June 5, 2002
University Of Melbourne
Australian research has led to clinical trials of a drug that could provide a painless and non-destructive way to treat blindness in diabetics.

Australian research has led to clinical trials of a drug that could provide a painless and non-destructive way to treat blindness in diabetics.

Related Articles

The University of Melbourne-led pre-clinical research prompted the world-wide, multi-centre clinical trial following the announcement of their results at an international conference last year. The drug blocks a crucial pathway whose end products cause blindness and eye damage in diabetics, the leading cause of new blindness in adults around the world. The trial will begin later this year.

The research team's success also caught the attention of funding agencies. The US-based Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), the world's leading non-profit, non-governmental funder of diabetes research and the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) have granted the University of Melbourne team $4.7 million in funding over five years. The funds will help refine their understanding of the chemical pathways that lead to blindness (diabetic retinopathy) and kidney failure (diabetic nephropathy) in diabetics and to find new drugs to combat the disease.

"A vital clue to our breakthrough came unexpectedly when treating diabetics for high blood pressure, another consequence of the disease," says Dr Jennifer Wilkinsonson-Berka, Head of Diabetes and Vascular Biology Laboratory, University of Melbourne.

Wilkinson-Berka's team and other researchers working in this area found that common drugs used to treat high blood pressure also improved kidney problems. The chemical system in the body that caused high blood pressure in diabetics was found to be the same culprit behind kidney failure.

The system, called Renin-Angiotensin System (RAS) is triggered by high blood glucose levels and its end product is a protein call angiotensin that causes cells to grow.

Drugs used to treat high blood pressure block the chemical pathway in RAS that produces angiotensin.

"Diabetic patients now take these drugs to treat kidney damage, but nobody had thought to look if RAS also operated in the eye," says Wilkinson-Berka.

Using a diabetic rat model with an enhanced RAS that the team developed specifically for their diabetic research, they quickly discovered that RAS was present and active in the eye when blood glucose reached high levels.

"The diabetic rats also allowed us to test various drugs that attack the pathways affected by or involving glucose, including two angiotensin-blocking drugs similar to the new drug to be used in the clinical trial," says Wilkinson-Berka.

"We found that these drugs successfully prevented the growth of blood vessels in the eye and kidney. It was this success that led to the funding for, and approval of the clinical trial," she says.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when the tiny blood vessels of the retina are damaged. The retina is a thin light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that transmits visual images to our brain.

The eye's vessels are extremely delicate. Angiotensin may cause the blood vessels to grow too fast and they fail to form properly. This causes the vessels to bleed and gradual detachment of the retina to occur. Similar damage occurs to the blood vessels in the kidney, eventually leading to kidney failure.

Current treatment for retinopathy is to burn hundreds of tiny holes into the retina with a laser to burn away damaged blood vessels. While effective, it is a damaging procedure causing loss of peripheral vision and it fails to prevent the problem re-occurring.

"We are aiming for a non-destructive, preventative treatment that doesn't involve destroying retina or requiring a kidney transplant," says Wilkinson-Berka.

More than 100,000 Australians have type 1 juvenile diabetes. It strikes suddenly and makes the recipient insulin dependent for life. With type 1 diabetes, the body's immune systems attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

Insulin and a controlled diet do not cure diabetes, nor does it prevent the eventual and devastating effects such as kidney failure, nerve damage, amputations and blindness.

The JDRF and NHMRC grant will enable Dr Wilkinson-Berka's team to find other pathways and hormonal systems involved in nephropathy and retinopathy, and potential drugs to block these pathways.

"It is hoped that drugs such as the one being tested will retard or prevent visual impairment and blindness in diabetic patients. It will be a major advance in the treatment of a disease that affects a large proportion of the population including children and young adults," she says.

The research team includes Associate Professor Richard Gilbert and Dr Darren Kelly, Medicine, St Vincent's Hospital; Associate Professor Rik Thompon and Dr Mark Waltham, St Vincent's Institute; Professor George Werther and Dr Chris Wraight, Murdoch Children's Research Institute and Royal Children's Hospital; Professor Carol Pollock and Dr Philip Poronik, University of Sydney, Royal North Shore Hospital; Associate Professor Silviu Itescu, Columbia University, New York.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Melbourne. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:

University Of Melbourne. "New Hope For Diabetics In Treating Blindness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 June 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020605073254.htm>.
University Of Melbourne. (2002, June 5). New Hope For Diabetics In Treating Blindness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 2, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020605073254.htm
University Of Melbourne. "New Hope For Diabetics In Treating Blindness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/06/020605073254.htm (accessed April 2, 2015).

Share This

More From ScienceDaily

More Health & Medicine News

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Wound-Healing Laser Soon to Be a Reality Israeli Scientist

Wound-Healing Laser Soon to Be a Reality Israeli Scientist

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 1, 2015) Israeli scientists says laser bonding of tissue allows much faster healing and less scarring. Amy Pollock has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Liberia Sees Resurgence of Drug Trafficking as Ebola Wanes

Liberia Sees Resurgence of Drug Trafficking as Ebola Wanes

AFP (Apr. 1, 2015) The governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone have been busy fighting the menace created by the deadly Ebola virus, but illicit drug lords have taken advantage of the situation to advance the drug trade. Duration: 01:12 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stigma Stalks India's Leprosy Sufferers as Disease Returns

Stigma Stalks India's Leprosy Sufferers as Disease Returns

AFP (Apr. 1, 2015) The Indian government declared victory over leprosy in 2005, but the disease is making a comeback in some parts of the country, with more than a hundred thousand lepers still living in colonies, shunned from society. Duration: 02:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
7-Year-Old Girl Gets 3-D Printed 'robohand'

7-Year-Old Girl Gets 3-D Printed 'robohand'

AP (Mar. 31, 2015) Although she never had much interest in prosthetic limbs before, Faith Lennox couldn&apos;t wait to slip on her new robohand. The 7-year-old, who lost part of her left arm when she was a baby, grabbed it as soon as it came off a 3-D printer. (March 31) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.


Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News


Free Subscriptions

Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile

Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?

Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins