Scientists from the University of Utah say they've found a potential cure for diabetic retinopathy. Researchers believe by inhibiting the protein known as ADP-ribosylation factor 6 (ARF6) they can effectively protect diabetics from this blinding disease.
Data from this new study showed that ARF6 is critical in controlling vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF refers to signaling proteins that are tasked with forming blood vessels. People with diabetic retinopathy have inflamed blood vessels and often need anti-VEGF eye injections to keep the inflammation in check.
Interestingly, doctors found that ARF6 helps control VEGF receptors in the eyes of lab rats with diabetic retinopathy. ARF6 can also send out signals for inflammation, which often leads to a disease like diabetic retinopathy.
Besides ARF6, researchers point out the importance of the proteins ARNO and GEP100. ARNO is responsible for transporting VEGF receptors into cells and strengthening the inflammatory signal. When GEP100 activates ARF6, however, it takes the VEGF receptor outside the cell and gets it ready to be used again.
Study authors note that this signaling pattern causes blood vessel leakage in diabetic retinopathy patients' eyes. When the blood vessels leak, the body desperately tries to repair itself with more delicate blood vessels that often cloud vision.
In an attempt to stop this process right from the beginning, professors injected the compound NAV-2729 into the eyes of lab rats. They found that NAV-2729 helped inhibit ARF6, which dramatically reduced inflammation in the retinal blood vessels.
While this study clearly shows the short-term benefits of NAV-2729 on diabetic retinopathy patients, it's still unclear whether this procedure is safe over a long period of time. Scientists still have to run many tests on this compound to make sure it doesn't have any major side effects.
Diabetic retinopathy is caused by severe damage to the retinal blood vessels in the back of the eye. The reason only diabetics are prone to this disease is due to their constant high blood sugar levels, which often causes blood vessels to leak.
It's only when diabetic retinopathy becomes severe that the body attempts to build new blood vessels. Unfortunately, these new blood vessels can actually contribute to scarring and/or permanent blindness.
Often diabetic retinopathy doesn't present symptoms until it has already progressed a great deal in the eyes. A few common warning signs might include blurry vision, temporary vision loss, and visual floaters. It's incredibly important for diabetics to get eye screenings every year to check for this disease.
Besides anti-VEGF injections, a few treatment strategies include steroids, laser surgery, and switching to a low-carb, low-sugar diet.
Anyone who wants to learn more about this study should pick up the latest edition of The Journal of Clinical Investigation. Published on October 23rd, 2017, this article is called, "Small GTPase ARF6 controls VEGFR2 trafficking and signaling in diabetic retinopathy."