Drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease could potentially reduce vision loss associated with diabetic retinopathy, according to new research. By using treatments which restore dopamine levels in the brains of Parkinson’s patients, researchers in the US found have that they could delay the onset of visual decline in diabetic retinopathy.
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Dopamine is a chemical messenger which plays a number of key roles in the brain, but it also known to play a role in retinal function. The underlying cause of diabetic retinopathy is the damage of blood vessels in the eye, but previous studies have suggested that dopamine levels may be reduced in patients with the condition.
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta created a diabetic animal model by treating mice with a compound which kills the insulin-producing cells. They found that when a common dopamine-precursor used for Parkinson’s patients, called L-DOPA, was then given to these diabetic mice it delayed the onset of vision loss by weeks and decreased the severity of visual defects. Further testing revealed that after treatment with L-DOPA, retinal responses were similar to levels found in healthy mice.
Dr Machelle Pardue, associate professor of ophthalmology at Emory University School of Medicine, said: “What’s new here is we can restore dopamine levels and improve visual function in an animal model of diabetes.”
Professor P. Michael Iuvone, director of research at the Emory Eye Centre, commented: “… it shows that treatments targeting dopamine could be beneficial to patients with established diabetes.”
Read more about the different ways to detect diabetic retinopathy