Retinal Neurodegeneration as an Early Manifestation of Diabetic Eye Disease and Potential Neuroprotective Therapies

  • Sidra Zafar
  • Mira Sachdeva
  • Benjamin J. Frankfort
  • Roomasa ChannaEmail author
Microvascular Complications—Retinopathy (DL Chao and G Yiu, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Microvascular Complications—Retinopathy


Purpose of Review

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a major cause of visual impairment and blindness throughout the world. Microvascular changes have long been regarded central to disease pathogenesis. In recent years, however, retinal neurodegeneration is increasingly being hypothesized to occur prior to the vascular changes classically associated with DR and contribute to disease pathogenesis.

Recent Findings

There is growing structural and functional evidence from human and animal studies that suggests retinal neurodegeneration to be an early component of DR. Identification of new therapeutic targets is an ongoing area of research with several different molecules undergoing testing in animal models for their neuroprotective properties and for possible use in humans.


Retinal neurodegeneration may play a central role in DR pathogenesis. As new therapies are developed, it will be important to develop criteria for clinically defining retinal neurodegeneration. A standardization of the methods for monitoring neurodegeneration along with more sensitive means of detecting preclinical damage is also needed.


Diabetes Diabetic retinopathy Neurodegeneration Neuroprotection 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sidra Zafar
    • 1
  • Mira Sachdeva
    • 1
  • Benjamin J. Frankfort
    • 2
  • Roomasa Channa
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Wilmer Eye InstituteJohns Hopkins HospitalBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of OphthalmologyBaylor College of MedicineHoustonUSA

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