Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Awards Grant to Ophthalmology

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Jena J. Steinle, PhD, associate professor in the UTHSC Departments of Ophthalmology and Anatomy and Neurobiology, has been awarded a grant for $495,000 by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).

Jena J. Steinle, PhD, associate professor in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Departments of Ophthalmology and Anatomy and Neurobiology, has been awarded a grant for $495,000 by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). The award will be used to develop her research project titled, “Compound 49b Prevents Diabetic Retinopathy through IGFBP-3.” The award will be distributed in equal installments over a three-year period.

One of the greatest fears of diabetic patients is retinal damage referred to as diabetic retinopathy, a condition that may impair vision, and in some cases, lead to blindness if not detected early and treated. Dr. Steinle and her team have developed a new eye drop that may be used to prevent diabetic retinopathy. To move the treatment from laboratory testing into the clinical trials phase, the team will first examine exactly how the drops prevent cell damage in the retina.

“The JDRF grant is vital for continuing our work to translate a novel topical treatment for diabetic retinopathy into clinical trials,” said Dr. Steinle. “Our hope is that the drops will eventually be used in patients to reduce concerns about this problem.”

Dr. Steinle and her team have been examining animal models with retinal disease and observing that an insulin-like growth factor binding protein, IGFBP-3, can inhibit cell damage in the retina. For example, the scientists discovered that IGFBP-3 in the retina of diabetic rodents with retinopathy is significantly reduced. However, when diabetic rodents are treated with the Compound 49b eye drops, the IGFBP-3 levels return to normal. This finding is associated with decreased cell damage in the retinal endothelial cells. Thus, the JDRF grant will assist the research team in proving that IGFBP-3 is a key factor in the ability of Compound 49b to prevent retinal cell damage.

The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation is a leader in setting the agenda for diabetes research worldwide and is the largest charitable funder of, and advocate for, type 1 diabetes research. The mission of JDRF is to find a cure for diabetes and its complications through the support of research. Since its founding in 1970 by parents of children with type 1 diabetes, JDRF has awarded more than $1.5 billion to diabetes research, including more than $107 million last year. More than 80 percent of JDRF’s expenditures directly support research and research-related education. For more information, visit www.jdrf.org.