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Journal of Diabetes Research
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 9508541, 18 pages
Review Article

Neuroprotection as a Therapeutic Target for Diabetic Retinopathy

1CIBERDEM (CIBER de Diabetes y Enfermedades Metabolicas Asociadas) and Diabetes and Metabolism Research Unit, Vall d’Hebron Institut de Recerca (VHIR), Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Passeig Vall d’Hebron 119-129, 08035 Barcelona, Spain
2Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Via San Zeno 31, 56127 Pisa, Italy
3Interdepartmental Research Center Nutrafood “Nutraceuticals and Food for Health”, University of Pisa, Via del Borghetto 80, 56124 Pisa, Italy

Received 22 December 2015; Revised 29 February 2016; Accepted 16 March 2016

Academic Editor: Ronald G. Tilton

Copyright © 2016 Cristina Hernández et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a multifactorial progressive disease of the retina and a leading cause of vision loss. DR has long been regarded as a vascular disorder, although neuronal death and visual impairment appear before vascular lesions, suggesting an important role played by neurodegeneration in DR and the appropriateness of neuroprotective strategies. Upregulation of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), the main target of current therapies, is likely to be one of the first responses to retinal hyperglycemic stress and VEGF may represent an important survival factor in early phases of DR. Of central importance for clinical trials is the detection of retinal neurodegeneration in the clinical setting, and spectral domain optical coherence tomography seems the most indicated technique. Many substances have been tested in animal studies for their neuroprotective properties and for possible use in humans. Perhaps, the most intriguing perspective is the use of endogenous neuroprotective substances or nutraceuticals. Together, the data point to the central role of neurodegeneration in the pathogenesis of DR and indicate neuroprotection as an effective strategy for treating this disease. However, clinical trials to determine not only the effectiveness and safety but also the compliance of a noninvasive route of drug administration are needed.