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Journal of Ophthalmology
Volume 2012, Article ID 209538, 14 pages
Review Article

Vascular Complications and Diabetes: Current Therapies and Future Challenges

1Graduate Program in Cellular and Molecular Physiology, Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA
2Center for Innovations in Wound Healing Research, Tufts University School of Medicine, Tufts University, Boston, MA 02111, USA

Received 1 August 2011; Accepted 2 October 2011

Academic Editor: Toshiaki Kubota

Copyright © 2012 Abbott L. Willard and Ira M. Herman. 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 retinal complications, including macular edema (DME) and proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), are the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults aged 20–74. Chronic hyperglycemia, considered the underlying cause of diabetic retinopathy, is thought to act first through violation of the pericyte-endothelial coupling. Disruption of microvascular integrity leads to pathologic consequences including hypoxia-induced imbalance in vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling. Several anti-VEGF medications are in clinical trials for use in arresting retinal angiogenesis arising from DME and PDR. Although a review of current clinical trials shows promising results, the lack of large prospective studies, head-to-head therapeutic comparisons, and potential long-term and systemic adverse events give cause for optimistic caution. Alternative therapies including targeting pathogenic specific angiogenesis and mural-cell-based therapeutics may offer innovative solutions for currently intractable clinical problems. This paper describes the mechanisms behind diabetic retinal complications, current research supporting anti-VEGF medications, and future therapeutic directions.