American researchers are now warning doctors who continue to use anti-TGF-β therapies as a part of their treatment strategy for diabetic retinopathy patients. Rather than cure patients of their disease, new lab tests show that anti-TGF-β therapies can do extreme damage to a diabetic's eyes.
This research was conducted at the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. Researchers took a bunch of diabetic rats and injected them with TGF-β to observe how the protein affected the rats' eyes. Contrary to popular opinion, professors involved in this study hypothesized that TGF-β played a key role in protecting the retinal blood vessels from diseases like diabetic retinopathy. According to this hypothesis, anti-TGF-β treatment methods could be doing patients a great disservice.
Sure enough, after injecting the diabetic rats with TGF-β, researchers found that increased TGF-β levels helped develop and strengthen retinal vessels over time. Dr. Mara Lorenzi, the head researcher on this study, told reporters that retinal damage increased only after the researchers stopped giving the rats increased doses of TGF-β.
Eye doctors have been working under the assumption that too much TGF-β could aggravate diabetic retinopathy in patients. Lorenzi's test proves that assumption is totally false. If anything, Lorenzi believes more TGF-β should be given to help patients fight off diabetes-related eye diseases.
Lorenzi said she now looks forward to running more tests on TGF-β's effect on the human eye. She said that she would now like to test extra TGF-β on human subjects. There's no word yet on whether or not Schepens Eye Research Institute will conduct such a study in the near future.
Researchers hope their study will convince more eye doctors to stop blindly using anti-TGF-β therapies to treat diabetic patients. Many of the professors involved in the study believe their work can help in the development of new TGT-β drug therapies that could potentially help thousands of people struggling with diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy occurs due to damage on the retinal blood vessels found in the back of the eyes. Some of the most common symptoms experienced by people with diabetic retinopathy include partial colorblindness, hazy vision, and moments of blindness. There are currently around 200,000 new cases of this disease every year in America.
Although a patient with diabetic retinopathy may experience visual symptoms, that doesn't mean they can't have the disease without noticing any symptoms. Indeed, doctors can detect diabetic retinopathy years before visual symptoms show up with a simple eye exam. That's why getting a regular eye check-up is so crucial for people who have diabetes.
Although there's no cure for diabetic retinopathy right now, there are numerous ways doctors can slow down the progression of the disease. A few of these treatment methods include following strict diabetic diets, blood vessel growth inhibitors, and, in more serious cases, surgery. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to blindness.
Lorenzi's research was recently published in the March 2017 edition of The American Journal of Pathology . The study was entitled "The Increased Transforming Growth Factor-β Signaling Induced by Diabetes Protects Retinal Vessels."