This study states that the Vascular basement membrane (BM) thickening has been hailed over half a century as the most prominent histological lesion in diabetic microangiopathy, and represents an early ultrastructural change in diabetic retinopathy (DR). Although vascular complications of DR have been clinically well established, specific cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying dysfunction of small vessels are not well understood. In DR, small vessels develop insidiously as BM thickening occurs. Studies examining high resolution imaging data have established BM thickening as one of the foremost structural abnormalities of retinal capillaries. This fundamental structural change develops, at least in part, from excess accumulation of BM components. Although BM thickening is closely associated with the development of DR, its contributory role in the pathogenesis of DR is coming to light recently. DR develops over several years before clinical manifestations appear, and it is during this clinically silent period that hyperglycemia induces excess synthesis of BM components, contributes to vascular BM thickening, and promotes structural and functional lesions including cell death and vascular leakage in the diabetic retina. Studies using animal models show promising results in preventing BM thickening with subsequent beneficial effects. Several gene regulatory approaches are being developed to prevent excess synthesis of vascular BM components in an effort to reduce BM thickening.

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