This summer I will be interning at Georgia Health Science University in Augusta, Georgia. My program started May 21, and since then I’ve been doing a lot of reading and observing. The goal of my research team is to develop new therapeutic targets in treatment and prevention of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetic eye disease caused by changes in the blood vessels in the retina. It is currently the leading cause of blindness in industrialized countries. With the increase in diabetes, more research is being devoted in trying to prevent these deteriorating illnesses.
By discovery and analyzing novel biochemical transporters and receptors in the retina, we hope to find a way to prevent or treat diabetic retinopathy. The specifics of what project I will be working on are still being determined. However, recent research has categorized diabetic retinopathy as an inflammatory disease. My mentor identified the expression of GPR109A, a G-protein coupled receptor, in the retinal pigment epithelium of the retina. A G-protein receptor senses molecules outside of the cell which then induces a cellular response inside the cell. This receptor when bonded to niacin or B-hydroxybutyrate will stimulate anti-inflammatory responses which could help to reduce the symptoms of diabetic retinopathy. Most likely I will be continuing to study this receptor in the retina because it is an attractive drug target for treatment.