Statin drug could help combat diabetic blindness

Tue, 29 Mar 2011
A research by scientists at the New University of Georgia in the United States has found that statins may be useful in preventing the onset of blindness in patients with type 2 diabetes .

With diabetes retinopathy now the most common cause of blindness in adults, this study performed oral statin tests on diabetic rats, revealing that statins were able to prevent free radicals in the retina from killing nerves, key to maintaining vision.

For those patients with uncontrolled and excessive glucose levels in the body, the introduction of free radicals can be a major issue. When they appear in the retina, the eye releases a protein called pro-nerve growth factor that matures into a nerve growth factor to try to protect the retinal nerves. Unfortunately, those free radicals developed by diabetes stop this growth from occurring, ultimately leading to an impaired neuronal function.

The research, which was supported by the American Heart Association, showed that the statin drug atovastation could block the formation of free radicals in the retina, ensuring that pro-nerve growth factor could mature into the nerve growth factor and maintain the neurons in the retina.

Azza El-Remessy, lead author of the study, commented "It removed the break on the pro-form nerve growth factor to develop into its mature form." She added "Diabetic patients need to protect the nerves beyond vision."
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