A new study throws light on a cellular process that occurs in the retinas of people with diabetic retinopathy. The discovery could aid the development of a line of treatment for this serious secondary condition of diabetes. The study led by a team of researchers is published in the noted journal Science.
Clinically, diabetic retinopathy involves vascular degeneration and later the development of abnormal blood vessels in the retina. This vascular change impacts the nerve cells that carry information from the eyes to the brain.
The study showcases that blood vessels apply a series of molecular brakes in order to stop vascular proliferation. The brakes applied are activated in a way similar to an accelerated version of natural cellular aging. Together, these mechanisms end in a process called cellular senescence, which eventually leads to scarring of the tissue in the retina.
Meanwhile, in senescence mode, blood vessels release inflammatory molecules that become targets of immune cells called neutrophils. While, neutrophils are considered to be first responders of the immune system, they arrive in the retina, to later help clean and restructure damaged blood vessels. The neutrophils do this via an unconventional cellular mechanism of discharging neutrophil extracellular traps synthesized of their own DNA onto diseased blood vessels.
Broadly, the results of the study point out that impairment of senescent blood vessels results in beneficial vascular remodeling. As a result, the study provides insights into the general function of endothelial cells and how they subject older populations to secondary conditions such as atherosclerosis, myocardial infraction, and strokes.