Mitochondrial Stability in Diabetic Retinopathy: Lessons Learned From Epigenetics

Diabetic retinopathy remains the leading cause of acquired blindness in working-age adults. While the cutting-edge research in the field has identified many molecular, functional, and structural abnormalities, the exact molecular mechanism of this devastating disease remains obscure. Diabetic environment drives dysfunction of the power generator of the cell and disturbs the homeostasis of mitochondrial dynamic. Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is damaged, the transcription of mtDNA-encoded genes is impaired, and the electron transport chain is compromised, fueling into a vicious cycle of free radicals. The hyperglycemic milieu also alters the epigenetic machinery, and mtDNA and other genes associated with mitochondrial homeostasis are epigenetically modified, further contributing to the mitochondrial damage. Thus, mitochondria appear to have a significant role in the development of diabetic retinopathy, and unraveling the mechanism responsible for their damage as well as the role of epigenetic modifications in mitochondrial homeostasis should identify novel therapeutic targets. This will have a major impact on inhibiting/halting diabetic retinopathy and preventing the loss of vision.