The role of Müller cell glucocorticoid signaling in diabetic retinopathy
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Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a sight-threatening complication associated with the highly prevalent diabetes disorder. Both the microvascular damage and neurodegeneration detected in the retina caused by chronic hyperglycemia have brought special attention to Müller cells, the major macroglia of the retina that are responsible for retinal homeostasis. Given the role of glucocorticoid signaling in anti-inflammatory responses and the almost exclusive expression of glucocorticoid receptors (GRs) in retinal Müller cells, administration of corticosteroid agonists as a potential treatment option has been widely studied. Although these approaches have been moderately efficacious in treating or de-escalating DR pathomechanisms, there are various side effects and gaps of knowledge with regard to introducing exogenous glucocorticoids to the diseased retina. In this paper, we provide a review of the literature concerning the available evidence for the role of Müller cell glucocorticoid signaling in DR and we discuss previously investigated approaches in modulating this system as possible treatment options. Furthermore, we propose a novel alternative to the available choices of treatment by using gene therapy as a tool to regulate the expression of GR in retinal Müller cells. Upregulating GR expression allows for induced glucocorticoid signaling with more enduring effects compared to injection of agonists. Hence, repetitive injections would no longer be required. Lastly, side effects of glucocorticoid therapy such as glucocorticoid resistance of GR following chronic exposure to excess ligands or agonists can be avoided.
KeywordsDiabetic retinopathy Glucocorticoid signaling Müller cells Gene therapy
We thank Gabriele Jäger for her excellent technical assistance.
The project was funded by the University of British Columbia (UBC) to F.G. by providing financial support via the “UBC-Germany Scholarship” and the German Research Foundation (DFG) to A.G. (GR 4403/2-1) and to S.M.H. (HA6014/5-1).
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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