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Banking on retinopathy research

Project summary

Professor Marcus Fruttiger and his team will collect and study eyes donated by people with diabetic retinopathy after their death. This will help to improve our understanding of what leads to retinopathy and lay the foundation for a retinopathy tissue bank that will, in the long run, become a valuable resource for research in this area.

Background to research

Diabetes-related retinopathy is a complication of long-term diabetes and the leading cause of blindness amongst people of working age. The treatment options for retinopathy are limited because we don’t fully understand how the condition develops. It’s assumed that, over time, high blood glucose levels damage the blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye). However, we need further research to help us understand the effects of diabetes on other parts of the retina.

Studies in animals (like mice) help us to understand the biology of retinopathy quickly and easily, but they don’t give the complete picture of how this condition develops in humans. Professor Fruttiger and his colleagues have recently developed ways to study retinopathy in eyes donated by people with retinopathy after their death. This approach could really help to bridge the gaps in our knowledge, but will require a large collection.

Research aims

Professor Fruttiger and his team will develop and begin to study a ‘tissue bank’ of eyes donated by people with diabetes-related retinopathy after their death.

They will take high-resolution images of cells taken from the donated retinas with medical information collected before the donors had passed away. This way, the team can study the impact of retinopathy on a range of different types of cell and learn more about the development of this condition.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This project will help to improve our understanding of how diabetes-related retinopathy develops, which is essential for the production of future retinopathy treatments for people with diabetes. It will also lay the foundation for a retinopathy tissue bank that will, in the long run, become a valuable resource for research in this area.

Project adopted by:
Diabetes UK local groups: Brentwood; Chelmsford and District; Chichester; Huntingdonshire; North Norfolk
Individuals: Mrs Jean Postlethwaithe
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