If the trigger, high glucose, was temporary, these natural responses might help clear damaged cells and protect the eye. "Inflammation is a compensatory mechanism that gets activated as a survival mechanism," Dr. Rojas said. "If it continues, the effect is bad."
"We have known for along time if patients keep their blood sugar under perfect control, they don't have these problems, but that's hard," Dr. Caldwell adds. "That is why it's such a difficult disease."
To examine interleukin-6's role in the destruction, the researchers injected angiotensin II into the vitreous portion of the eyes of mice missing the gene for the inflammatory factor as well as normal mice. The extra angiotensin did little to the retinal vessels of mice lacking interleukin-6 but vessels in the normal mouse retina mimicked the inflammatory reaction found in diabetic retinopathy. When they reintroduced interleukin-6 to the genetically altered mice, the damage mimicked that of the normal mice. "So when we knock out interleukin-6, we can block the effects of angiotensin II," Dr. Caldwell said.
The scientists want to see whether the interleukin-6 antibody can be used to prevent damage by giving it shortly after the onset of diabetes in rodents and as a treatment by using it later in the disease process.
|Contact: Toni Baker|
Medical College of Georgia