New way to help deter vision loss among diabetic patients has been identified. Connections between cells in the retinal blood vessels contain unusual, long-chain lipids that may keep vessels from leaking, possibly preventing diabetic retinopathy from occurring, said Julia Busik, Professor at Michigan State University.
Diabetic retinopathy is considered one of the most debilitating complications of diabetes and the leading cause of vision loss among adults.
The findings, published in the journal Diabetes, noted that the blood vessels in the retina are closely connected by structures called tight junctions, which are part of the blood-retinal barrier -- a virtually impenetrable wall.
"When this becomes unbalanced, the vessels leak and become fragile, leading to the development of diabetic retinopathy," Busik added.
"It appears though that these long-chain lipids and the enzymes that produce them can protect the retina and its blood vessels," he added.
Next steps for the researchers are to understand what these lipids can really do and how exactly they're situated in the tight junctions of the retina so that new treatments may be possible.
"Incorporating more of the long-chain lipids into the eye could potentially be a new treatment down the road and involve injections or even eye drops," Busik said.
Lipids often get a bad rap due to their association with health issues such as high cholesterol and heart disease, but Busik is encouraged by what she has found.