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Banking on retinopathy research

Project summary

Advanced histopathology for diabetic retinopathy

Dr 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 the mechanisms that lead 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

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of long-term diabetes and the leading cause of blindness among people of working age. The treatment options for retinopathy are limited because we have an incomplete understanding of how the condition develops. It is assumed that, over time, high blood glucose levels damage the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye. However, further research is necessary to help us understand the effects of diabetes on other components of the retina. Studies using animals (such as mice) deliver insights into the mechanisms of retinopathy quickly and easily, but do not give a complete picture of the condition in humans. Dr Marcus Fruttiger and his colleagues at University College London have recently developed methods for studying the changes that lead to retinopathy in human eyes donated by patients after their death. This approach could help to bridge the gaps in our knowledge, but will require a large collection of human tissue.

Research aims

Dr Fruttiger and his team will develop and begin to study a tissue bank of eyes donated by people with diabetic retinopathy after their death. Their work will link microscopic images of cells from donated retinas with information on specific areas of the retina from clinical imaging performed before the patient’s death. This will enable the researchers to study the regional impact of diabetic retinopathy on a range of different cell types and learn more about the development of this condition.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This project will help to improve our understanding of the mechanisms that lead to diabetic 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. Insights gained from the study will also improve the researcher’s ability to identify the changes that lead to diabetic retinopathy, which will be essential in future when testing and working out who to target and when to introduce new retinopathy treatments.

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