A new study says that a gene called erythropoietin (EPO)increases the risk among diabetics of developing severe eye and kidney complications.
The University of Utah researchers compared 1,618 people suffering from the eye and kidney problems with 954 diabetic patients without the complications. They found that people with a mutant EPO gene had a higher risk of developing the two diseases.
The eye complication, known as proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), is the most common cause of legal blindness among adults in the United States. Diabetes is also the main cause of end-stage renal disease (ESRD).
Kang Zhang, the director of the Division of Ophthalmic Genetics at the university's Moran Eye Center, warned that the extensive use of EPO to help produce red blood cells in patients with anemia could be harmful.
"Patients with anemia due to chronic renal disease (many of whom have diabetes) who receive frequent dosing of EPO to maintain higher hemoglobin levels have a higher rate of cardiovascular complications than patients who maintain a lower hemoglobin level," he said.
The study was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.