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Neurodegeneration in diabetic retinopathy: does it really matter? – published online 20/07/2018

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by Rafael Simó, Alan W. Stitt, Thomas W. Gardner

Retinal neurodegeneration is an early event in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. In fact, the ADA has recently defined diabetic retinopathy as a highly tissue-specific neurovascular complication. In this issue, Simó et al (https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-018-4692-1) provide a critical review on the role of neurodegeneration in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. A special emphasis is placed on the pathophysiology of the neurovascular unit (NVU). In addition, the authors provide an overview of the usefulness of retinal assessment as an indirect method to explore brain neurodegeneration. Simó and colleagues emphasise that retinal neurodegeneration is a critical endpoint in the development of diabetic retinopathy and that neuroprotection, itself, can be considered a therapeutic target, independent of its potential impact on microvascular disease. The authors conclude that more interventional studies targeting pathogenic pathways that impact on the NVU and which offer both vaso- and neuroprotection are needed. This will be crucial for implementing a timely and efficient personalised medicine approach for diabetic retinopathy. The figures from this review are available as a downloadable slideset.

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