Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Dr. Kowluru receives 11th year of Thomas Foundation funding to fight diabetic retinopathy
Renu A. Kowluru, Ph.D., professor of Ophthalmology, Anatomy and Cell Biology, and Endocrinology for the Wayne State University School of Medicine and the Kresge Eye Institute, has received an additional year of funding from the Thomas Foundation to finance her research into fighting diabetic retinopathy.
The Thomas Foundation began funding Dr. Kowluru’s research in 2001.
Retinopathy is the most common cause of acquired blindness in young adults and in diabetic patients. The condition is a result of damage to the small blood vessels in the retina, the layer of cells in the back of the eye that is responsible for sending signals to the brain.
All people with diabetes are at risk of developing retinopathy, and the risk increases the longer a person has diabetes. Between 40 percent and 45 percent of Americans with diabetes suffer from retinopathy, according to the National Eye Institute. The condition’s onset can begin with no or few symptoms.
Studies have shown that reversing high blood sugar with normal controls fails to halt the progression of diabetic retinopathy. The condition continues to progress even after blood sugar levels are brought to normal. This suggests, Dr. Kowluru said, a “metabolic memory” phenomenon.
Her research seeks to identify cellular and molecular abnormalities in that metabolic memory phenomenon. She hypothesizes that the retinal mitochondrial DNA continues to be damaged even after normal glucose is reinstituted, and the electron transport system continues to be compromised.
Her lab is testing the role of DNA damage in the metabolic memory phenomenon using isolated retinal capillary cells, which are the targets of histopathology associated with diabetic retinopathy.
Understanding the role of DNA damage could result in the development of therapies that patients can use to supplement controlling blood sugar levels to slow the progression of blindness brought about by diabetes complications.