Patricia R. Taylor, PhD
The role of IL-17 neutrophils and lymphocytes during diabetic retinopathy
Currently, 30 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, with an additional 86 million being treated for pre-diabetes, and this epidemic continues to rise annually in the US. Beyond this, more than half of these diabetics suffer from diabetic retinopathy, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in the US. With such a significant impact on the US, new therapeutics are required to stay abreast of the financial and physical threat posed by this visual disease. One of the most promising sources of such a therapeutic target lies within the immune system. The alteration of the immune system mediates much of the pathogenesis in diabetic complications through protein cytokine production, with IL-17 being one of the most prevalent cytokines in inflammatory disorders and diabetes. My research focuses on the role of IL-17 in diabetic retinopathy, and is the first study to characterize IL-17 producing neutrophils in diabetes. IL-17 producing neutrophils are a major focus in this study because they are the only cell in the immune system that has an autocrine IL-17 function that increases production of pro-inflammatory chemokines, proteinases, and reactive oxygen species, which play a role in diabetic retinopathy. It is my hypothesis that diabetes alters the immune system, promotes IL-17 production by neutrophils and lymphocytes, which leads to chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and development of clinical retinopathy. By studying this chain of events, potential therapeutic targets will be identified to immunomodulate IL-17 production and delay the onset of retinal pathology.