February 22, 2011
Kellogg cornea specialist receives grant from the Michigan Diabetes Research and Training Center
Focus is on evaluating a neurological complication of diabetes
ANN ARBOR, MI — A new grant will allow the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center's Roni M. Shtein, M.D., to find a better means of evaluating patients with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN), which can occur when blood sugar levels remain above normal over time. The excess sugar in the blood slowly damages nerve fibers and can result in pain or numbness in the feet or other parts of the body. DPN is the most common and painful complication of diabetes and the leading cause of diabetes-related hospital admissions and amputations.
Dr. Shtein, a cornea specialist, along with Stephen I. Lentz, Ph.D., research assistant professor in the U-M Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes (MEND), will receive a $100,000 grant from the Michigan Diabetes Research Training Center (MDRTC) to further their research on DPN.
Drs. Shtein and Lentz will use the grant to develop a non-invasive method for evaluating DPN. Current clinical trials use a combination of electrodes and skin biopsies to measure nerve fiber density as an indicator of DPN. These are invasive procedures with risks that include discomfort, bleeding, infection, and difficulty healing, especially in diabetic patients.
To develop this new evaluation method, Drs. Shtein and Lentz will use an in vivo confocal microscope to study nerve fibers in the cornea, which may provide a way to monitor the onset and progression of DPN. They also hope to extend this technology to mouse models and, ultimately, to clinical trials and in clinical practice to assess the severity and progression of DPN.
In the end, a non-invasive method for evaluating DPN would greatly improve preventive care and, overall, the quality of life of diabetic patients and their families.
Dr. Shtein sees patients in Kellogg's Cornea and External Disease, Cataract and Refractive Surgery Clinic. Dr. Lentz is the laboratory director for the Morphology and Image Analysis Core of the MDRTC. This is the first collaborative grant between the U-M Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and MEND since both groups came together in the expanded Kellogg Eye Center and new Brehm Center for Diabetes Research, which was opened in March 2010.
The MDRTC is a multidisciplinary unit of the U-M Health System funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1977. MDRTC is one of seven NIH Diabetes Research and Training Centers in the United States.