January 30, 2014

Lifting Mood to Treat Diabetic Vision Loss

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dopamineWe know that dopamine lifts mood and makes the heart race but did you know that it may be a treatment for diabetic retinopathy? Researchers have found that a lack of the neurotransmitter is potentially a leading cause of blindness in adults. The results were published in Journal of Neuroscience.

If  your vision is impaired, you may be a little down. Although this novel treatment does not base its science on the depressing issue of vision loss, it is shown that dopamine, a vital neurotransmitter in the brain, was also important in the retina.

“There was some evidence already that dopamine levels were reduced in diabetic retinopathy, but what’s new here is: we can restore dopamine levels and improve visual function in an animal model of diabetes,” says Machelle Pardue, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology at Emory University School of Medicine and research career scientist at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

Mice with diabetes were treated with L-DOPA. These diabetic mice that were treated with L-DOPA had a delayed onset of visual impairments of diabetic retinopathy. In addition, the visual benefits of L-DOPA originated from the retina, since treatment improved retinal responses.

The system by which the researchers tested the vision of the mice was interesting. The mice were put on a platform and shown a rotating pattern of horizontal or vertical lines. The response of the mice, up and down or side to side, was observed.

Bromocriptine, a dopamine receptor agonist, is already FDA-approved to treat type 2 diabetes. It will be important to determine if the same dopamine receptors modulate visual acuity and sensitivity in people.

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