• Use of Sigma Receptor Ligands to Prevent Retinal Ganglion Cell Apoptosis Characteristic of Diabetic Retinopathy

      Martin, Pamela M; Department of Cellular Biology and Anatomy (2003-04)
      (First Paragraph)Diabetic retinopathy is a major sight-threatening disease and is the leading cause of blindness among working-aged Americans, affecting approximately 10 to 12 million persons (Wu, 1995). Although retinal vasculature is particularly vulnerable to damage in diabetes, other retinal cells are at risk. Very recently, Barber et al. (1998) documented increased apoptosis of neural retinal cells in experimental diabetes in rats and diabetes mellitus in humans. Notably, retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) were found to be at particular risk. Ganglion cell death in diabetic retinopathy is thought to be mediated via overstimulation o f N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors by glutamate. oRl is a nonopiate and nonphencyclidine-binding site that has numerous pharmacological and physiological functions. In some studies, agonists for aR l have been shown to afford neuroprotection against overstimulation of the NMDA receptor. The purpose of these studies was to evaluate the potential use of aR ligands, particularly those that bind specifically to o R l, as neuroprotective agents in the treatment of RGC apoptosis characteristic of diabetic retinopathy. A detailed description of the retina, followed by information about diabetes and the mechanisms thought to be involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy, particularly the apoptotic death of RGCs associated with diabetic retinopathy, is provided below.