Oral statins such as atorvastatin (Lipitor; Pfizer Inc., New York, NY) may prevent diabetic retinopathy by blocking the formation of free radicals in the retina, according to a study in Diabetologia. In a study using diabetic rats, researchers from University of Georgia’s College of Pharmacy evaluated how oxidative stress impairs homeostasis of pro-nerve growth factor (proNGF) and nerve growth factor to cause neurovascular dysfunction in the eyes of patients with diabetes. Atorvastatin was orally administered in doses proportional to levels given to human patients with cardiovascular problems, a news release said.
In the rat model, the investigators found that atorvastatin blocked the formation of free radicals in the retina, which restored proper levels of nerve growth factor and preserved neurons in the retina. “It removed the break on the pro-form nerve growth factor to develop into its mature form,” first study author Azza El-Remessy, PhD, said in the news release.
“Oxidative stress plays an unrecognized role in causing accumulation of proNGF, which can activate a common pathway, RhoA/p38MAPK, to mediate neurovascular injury,” the researchers concluded. “Oral statin therapy shows promise for treatment of diabetic retinopathy.”