Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a complex disease with increasing numbers of individuals being afflicted and treatment modalities limited. There are strong interactions between the metabolome and gut microbiota, and both have roles in the pathogenesis of DR. Communication axes exist between the gut microbiota and the eye, therefore, knowing how the microbiota influences the host metabolism during health and diabetes could guide a better understanding of retinopathy pathogenesis. While considerable experimental evidence exists for a gut–eye axis from murine models of human ocular diseases, human microbiome-metabolome studies are needed to elucidate changes in the gut microbiome at the taxonomic and functional levels that are functionally related to ocular pathology. This presentation will discuss new ways to diminish DR using genetically modified bacteria that target the renin angiotensin system and using stem cells to increase the integrity of the gut barrier.
Dr. Grant is the Eivor and Alston Callahan, M.D., Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham and a Fellow of ARVO. She is globally known for her discoveries related to the functional processes of stem cells (hematopoietic, embryonic, and induced pluripotent) and their potential to prevent or repair vascular degeneration in retinopathies associated with diabetes and hypoxia. More recently, her work has focused on understanding the gut-eye axis, particularly the link between gut barrier function and disruption of the blood retinal barrier in diabetes. Dr Grant’s research is currently funded by five R01 grants from NEI/NIH while her work has also been supported by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the American Heart Association. Her prolific publication record includes over 260 peer-reviewed research articles and 12 reviews and book chapters that have been cited over 21,000 times. She has also given more than 80 invited lectures about her work all over the world. Dr Grant has been involved with 10 clinical trials related to the treatment of diabetic complications and currently has 13 issued and pending US and international patents. She currently serves on the Editorial Board of IOVS and American Heart Journal Plus: Cardiology Research and Practice. Dr Grant earned her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Florida, Gainesville, and completed her research fellowships from the University of Florida and the Johns Hopkins University.