The stories shared by JDRF staffers this month about their experiences with diabetic eye disease are sobering reminders that individuals with diabetes are at a lifelong risk of vision loss. This holds true despite recent advances in treatment and improvements in doctor and patient education. Currently, the best way to prevent vision threatening diabetic retinal disease is by controlling factors such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. We also emphasize the importance of routine dilated eye examinations performed at least annually. Nonetheless, we see patients on a weekly basis who, despite decades of careful monitoring of their blood sugars, a healthy diet, and routine exercise, develop advanced retinal complications like the ones described by Arielle, Grace, Liz, and Nate. Given the rising numbers of patients with T1D worldwide and the enormous burden that diabetic eye complications place on patients and their families, there is a tremendous unmet need for newer, more effective therapies and prevention strategies for diabetic eye disease.
The Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative (MTM Vision) is an international collaboration led by Dr. S. Robert Levine and inspired by his wife, the actress Mary Tyler Moore, who worked tirelessly to advocate for patients with T1D and who envisioned a world without vision loss from diabetes. The mission of MTM Vision is to acceleratethe development of new methods to preserve and restore vision in people with diabetes. This will be accomplished through major efforts already underway that include a redesign of the system used to describe the progression of diabetic eye disease, a biobank for eye tissue and fluid from deceased donors , and a collaboration between industry partners and researchers to develop new ways to measure visual function in the diabetic eye. Tools from these initial efforts will be used to improve the research and development process for new interventions that can help us preserve excellent vision in all eyes of people with T1D, and restore it in people who already have significant visual loss. As doctors and scientists, we recognize the importance of addressing the worldwide epidemic of diabetes and associated vision loss by developing therapies and preventions that effectively address early-stage disease even before vision is affected. As humans, we are motivated by the people we have known and loved who have suffered irreversible vision loss from diabetes. MTM Vision has gathered an internationally renowned group of physicians, scientists, and major industry groups to work together in solving this challenge. We are committed to keeping the patient voice front and center in this endeavor. Our purpose is to ensure that people with diabetes can live joyful and independent lives free from the fear and suffering of vision loss.
Jennifer Sun, MD, MPH is Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, Chief of the Center for Eye Research and Trials at the Beetham Eye Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, and Scientific Co-director of MTM Vision.
Thomas Gardner, MD, MS is Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan and Scientific Co-director of MTM Vision.