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To B or not to B

Vitamin B3 has been shown to improve diabetic retinopathy in early studies

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A common vitamin has shown promise in improving diabetic retinopathy (DR) in both in vitro human retinal cells and rats.

The new research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that rats offered vitamin B3 over a long period had a delayed onset and slower progression of DR.

The Chinese researchers also investigated what was happening at a molecular level when the vitamin, also known as Niaspan, was offered as a treatment to the rats.

They found the vitamin boosted a certain micro-RNA, known as miRNA-126, which may play a role in regulating the vascular endothelial growth factor that has been implicated in DR development.

Previous research has found that patients with type one diabetes have significantly lower levels of miRNA-126 in their bodies when compared to their healthy counterparts.

Looking at human retinal epithelial cells cultured in the laboratory, the researchers found that vitamin B3 caused a similar boost in levels of miRNA-126 in these cells as the increase observed in the rodent studies.

Researchers, Yang Wang and Hua Yan, hope the findings may lead to a non-invasive, convenient and safe treatment alternative for the disease, stating in the paper that: “There is an emerging need to develop new therapeutic approaches for this devastating disease.”

Pharmaceutical varieties of vitamin B3 are currently used to boost the levels of ‘good’ cholesterol in the body.