Defining how every cell type in the retina responds to diabetes

Dr Simpson from Queen’s University Belfast:

“I am thrilled by the opportunity provided by this funding to apply the very latest technique to perform a ‘molecular dissection’ of the retina and discover how all the different cell types required for vision are affected by diabetes. This offers great potential for developing future treatments for diabetic retinopathy.”

Dr Simpson from Queen's University Belfast
Dr Simpson from Queen's University Belfast

What is the aim of this project?
Dr David Simpson from Queen’s University Belfast will for the first time be defining how every cell type within the retina responds to diabetes.

The researcher will simultaneously ‘dissect’ out all the cell types within the retina to discover how they are affected during the course of diabetic retinopathy.

Why is this research needed?
In the UK, within 20 years of diagnosis nearly all people with type 1 and almost two thirds of people with type 2 diabetes (60%) have some degree of retinopathy, which can cause eye pain, floaters and lead to sudden vision loss.

There are a number of treatments currently available but unfortunately for some patients they are not effective and they have a limited ability to restore vision that has been lost.

What method will researchers use?
Researchers will use a novel approach known as single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq) which enables them to simultaneously understand the genes in thousands of cells in the retinal tissue.

Traditional approaches have been unsuccessful at assessing the impact of diabetes upon each of the multiple cell types in the retina.

How will this research impact patients?
Understanding this sight-threatening condition could provide new treatments for patients which target specific cells and prevent or slow down the early retinal changes.

Many patients could benefit from this research including Suzie Bushby, from Chichester, who was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy.

She said: “I’ve had diabetic retinopathy for four years which has really had a significant impact on mine and my family's life. This has involved seven bouts of laser treatment, a detached retina, six months off work and each and every morning I wake up and am worried that there will be blood in my eye or worse. My consultant is wonderful and reassures me and the laser does stop the vessels from growing but it's still uncomfortable and it scares me."

Return to main research page