Diabetic retinopathy remains the leading cause of visual loss in adults in the US, and it is increasing throughout the US and the world as diabetes rapidly affects more people. Although prolonged good glycemic control has been demonstrated to inhibit the development of diabetic retinopathy in patients, this goal is essentially impossible for most diabetics to maintain, so additional means are needed to inhibit the development of diabetic retinopathy. The Kern laboratory focuses on how diabetic retinopathy develops and thus can be inhibited. This research currently focuses on 4 research areas related to the development of diabetic retinopathy, most of which initially were reported by or championed by Dr. Kern and his collaborators: (1) the role of leukocytes and inflammation as a cause of diabetic retinopathy, and the regulation of those pro-inflammatory changes by epigenetic acetylation, (2) the role of retinal photoreceptor cells and vision itself in the development of the retinal vascular leakage and degeneration of diabetic retinopathy, (3) the use of low intensity light to inhibit and reverse diabetic retinopathy, and (4) the use of systems pharmacology of G-Protein Coupled Receptors to inhibit the retinopathy. Discussions are now underway to translate these findings into patients with diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy remains the leading cause of visual loss in adults in the US. Approximately 12% of all Veterans suffer from diabetes mellitus, and after about 20 years with the disease, essentially all have the retinopathy to some degree. Although prolonged good glycemic control has been demonstrated to inhibit the development of diabetic retinopathy in patients, this goal is essentially impossible for most diabetics at present, so additional means are needed to inhibit the development of diabetic complications such as retinopathy. The Kern laboratory has focused on learning how diabetic retinopathy develops and can be inhibited. These studies have been conducted in animals in the past, and have offered appreciable new insight on how the retinopathy develops. These insights have led to discussions to initiate two clinical studies to test new ways to treat and reverse diabetic macular edema and other lesions of diabetic retinopathy.
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