A new study could help scientists develop new ways to reverse the effects of diabetes-related eye complications.
The research published in the journal PLOS ONE and conducted by experts at the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute, identified new molecular abnormalities in the corneas of people with diabetes that may result in vision problems in affected patients.
The cornea is the clear outer layer at the front of the eyeball, which acts as a window to the eye. Approximately 50 to 70% of diabetic patients suffer from corneal complications that cause lasting defects and eventually lead to sight loss.
For this latest study, investigators led by Mehrnoosh Saghizadeh Ghiam, assistant professor of biomedical sciences and neurosurgery at the Institute, identified gene expression regulators (microRNAs) in the corneas of diabetic and non-diabetic patients.
However, they confirmed that several of these regulators were expressed differently in the diabetic corneas, and may contribute to stem cell and epithelial (tissue cells) abnormalities in diabetic corneas.
“We observed small but significant changes in the gene expressions between normal and diabetic corneas,” said Ghiam. “These slight alterations may contribute to disease progression and cause cascading effects on the cellular functions that prevent wound healing and eventually contribute to vision impairment.”
He added that his team of researchers are now working on ways to use gene therapy to manipulate these microRNAs and repair and normalise damaged corneas.
Alexander Ljubimov, director of the Eye Program at the Regenerative Medicine Institute and co-author of the study, said: “No previous studies have addressed the role of microRNAs in the corneas of patients with diabetes. This first-of-a-kind study will allow researchers to better understand the roles of microRNAs in corneal diseases.”

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