Vitamin A could be effective against vision loss in diabetes

New research in laboratory mice suggests that therapy with vitamin A can improve eyesight in diabetes. The studies have shown that a single dose of chromophore 9-cis-retinal, an analogue of vitamin A, significantly changes the impaired visual function. In addition, this research can help scientists develop effective treatments for vision loss due to diabetes. These are mostly associated with early diabetic retinopathy.

Use of vitamin A in the laboratory

close up of male eye prevent diabetic retinopathy with vitamin a

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye disease that can cause vision loss in people with diabetes. In the middle to late stages, the condition occurs due to damage to the blood vessels in a person’s retina. People with diabetes are at risk of having too much sugar in their blood. Accordingly, the sugar can cause blood vessels to block, which leads to bleeding. The eye can develop new blood vessels, but these usually don’t work well and can bleed easily. Treatment can take the form of injections, laser treatments, or eye surgery, depending on the patient’s circumstances.

natural products as sources of vitamin a in citrus fruits with fiber

Although diabetic retinopathy in its later stages is characterized by damage to the blood vessels of the retina, recent research has shown that a person can still experience vision loss in its early stages without any apparent damage to the blood vessels. Vitamin A is crucial for the normal functioning of vision. In addition, it helps develop a protein that enables the retina to absorb light. The retina is correspondingly connected to the chromophore 11-cis-retinal, which an eye must continuously produce for optimal vision.

research results

two laboratory mice with diabetes researching vitamin a deficiency

The authors of the new study note that there is evidence that diabetes leads to vitamin A deficiency. Therefore, the researchers hypothesized that there may be a link between diabetes and the early vision loss characteristic of some cases of diabetic retinopathy. To see if this was actually the case, they examined the effectiveness of the 9-cis-retinal chromophore in treating vision loss in mice with diabetes. They used 9-cis retinal instead of 11-cis retinal, which is produced by the body because the latter is very unstable and not commercially available. However, the two are closely related.

ophthalmologist examines woman with magnifying glass in hospital

For the study, the researchers used three groups of mice. The scientists created two of them for diabetes, while the other corresponded to the age and sex of the mice with diabetes, but did not have them themselves (control group). One group of mice with diabetes received a single dose injection of 9-cis retinal while the other received a placebo. The team then analyzed the visual status of all mice by measuring electroretinograms, retinal cell death, and oxidative stress. The study authors found that the mice treated with 9-cis retinal had significantly improved eyesight across all measures. This study thus suggests that the delivery of visual chromophore to the diabetic eye is a potential therapeutic strategy for the early stages of diabetic retinopathy to prevent vision loss in people with diabetes.