Diabetic retinopathy and endothelin system: microangiopathy versus endothelial dysfunction

Francesco Saverio Sorrentino, Silvia Matteini, Claudio Bonifazzi, Adolfo Sebastiani, Francesco Parmeggiani
Eye 2018, 32 (7): 1157-1163
In the face of the global epidemic of diabetes, it is critical that we update our knowledge about the pathogenesis of diabetes and the related micro alterations on the vascular network in the body. This may ultimately lead to early diagnosis and novel treatment options for delaying the progression of diabetic complications. Research has recently revealed the pivotal role of endothelin in the pathogenesis of diabetic complications, particularly in the regulation of the capillary flow, which is affected in the course of retinopathy. Although there are several reviews on various approaches to the treatment of diabetes, including normalization of glucose and fat metabolism, no reviews in literature have focused on the endothelin system as a therapeutic target or early indicator of diabetic microangiopathy. In this review, we summarize some of the experimental and clinical evidence suggesting that current therapeutic approaches to diabetes may include the modulation of the blood concentration of compounds of the endothelin system. In addition, we will briefly discuss the beneficial effects produced by the inhibition of the production of high levels of endothelin in vasculopathy, with focus on diabetic retinopathy. The cutting-edge technology currently widely used in opththalmology, such as the OCT angiography, allows us to detect very early retinal morphological changes alongside alterations in choroidal and retinal vascular network. Combination of such changes with highly sensitive measurements of alterations in serum concentrations of endothelin may lead to more efficient early detection and treatment of diabetes and related macro/microvascular complications.

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