23 Nov 2018

Devi Deliyanti and Jenny Wilkinson-Berka awarded DARP grants for retinopathy research

Congratulations to Dr Devy Deliyanti and Professor Jenny Wilkinson-Berka on being awarded Diabetes Australia Research Program (DARP) grants for their research on diabetic retinopathy!

Dr Devy Deliyanti
Retinal disease is the most feared complication of diabetes, with almost all patients experiencing some visual disturbances and some patients progressing to severe vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy is characterised by damage to small blood vessels in the retina which can proliferate and leak blood into the vitreous cavity of the eye. Dr Deliyanti and Prof Wilkinson-Berka are investigating two very different approaches to the problem.

Dr Devy Deliyanti has received a grant of $59,616 for 2019 to investigate fiber supplementation for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

Unfortunately, current treatments for diabetic retinopathy only target the end stages of the disease, when significant visual impairment has already occurred. Even when laser therapy is applied, the disease progresses. There is an urgent need to understand the factors that trigger the initial damage to the retina that occurs in diabetes and develop treatments that prevent diabetic retinopathy from progressing. Inflammation has emerged as an important contributor to diabetic retinopathy, but how inflammation influences damage to blood vessels in the eye is not fully understood. Devy's proposal is to boost the protective arm of the immune system with diets rich in fiber, as a dietary change should be an effective, safe and cost-effective approach to protect against vision loss in diabetes.

Professor Jennifer Wilkinson-Berka
Professor Jenny Wilkinson-Berka has received a grant of $59,860 for 2019 to investigate whether boosting the adaptive immune system will reduce hypertensive diabetic retinopathy.

Damage to the retina as a complication of diabetes is escalating in prevalence across the globe. Yet effective treatments to prevent the disease are limited. Vision loss in people with diabetes occurs following damage to small blood vessels within the retina, and is worsened by the presence of high blood pressure.

Current treatments including common blood pressure lowering drugs are not completely effective in reducing diabetic retinopathy. We have identified that inflammation damages blood vessels in the retina and this situation is exacerbated in diabetes and with high blood pressure. We propose that specific cells of the immune system can quench the inflammation in the diabetic retina and repair the damaged blood vessels, and this can occur when particular types of blood pressure lowering drugs are administered together.

The potential outcomes of this study are to firstly, provide new information about how high blood pressure influences the immune system in the eye in diabetes, and secondly, demonstrate the ability of combining blood pressure lowering drugs to reduce vision loss due to diabetes.

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