Diabetic retinopathy: A promising new treatment

Photo of Dr. Mike Sapieha, a researcher at the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Research Centre

Dr. Mike Sapieha, a researcher at the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Research Centre

A promising treatment1 for diabetic retinopathy has been developed by Dr. Mike Sapieha, a researcher at the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Research Centre, and Dr. Pam Tsuruda of the company UNITY Biotechnology.

All about Diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is, as its name suggests, a disease of the retina. The retina is the inner membrane of the eye, which receives light impressions and transmits them to the optic nerve.

Retinopathy is caused by a degeneration of the blood vessels that supply the retina, which renew themselves in an abnormal way.

Targeting for a better treatment

Sometimes these new vessels leave scars on the retina and interfere with vision. One of the main challenges in treatment is to distinguish between healthy and damaged blood vessels.

The results of this research project reveal that abnormal blood vessels in the retina trigger molecular programs associated with accelerated aging, commonly known as cellular senescence.

Drs. Sergio Crespo-Garcia and Agnieszka Dejda, researchers at the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Research Centre, identified a molecular target present in defective retinal blood vessels.

This discovery allows the drug to selectively eliminate the defective vessel and the retina to repair itself.

Hope for thousands of patients

A single injection could potential be enough to treat the cells that cause this diabetic eye disease.Mike Sapieha, researcher at the HMR Research Centre and full professor with the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Montréal

UNITY Biotechnology is conducting studies to determine the potential of this new treatment for diabetic retinopathy.

This collaboration between the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Research Centre, University of Montréal and UNITY Biotechnology could have an impact on the quality of life of patients with diabetic retinopathy, a condition which affects approximately 750,000 Canadians and is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults.Mike Sapieha

Reprograming patient histories

The Foundation’s donors can be proud to see their donations shaping the medicine of tomorrow and contributing to major advances in research here at the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont. I would like to thank them all for being a source of hope and healing.Julie Desharnais, Executive Director of the Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Foundation

Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont: Three poles of excellence

The Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont Research Centre (CR-HMR) excels in three areas: Immuno-oncology; Nephrology, and Ophthalmology.

The Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont University Centre of Ophthalmology:

  • brings together one of the largest teams of ophthalmologists in Quebec.
  • has some of the best-equipped research laboratories in North America.

The Centre contributes daily to the implementation of best practices in the field of ophthalmology and to the development of the most advanced knowledge and technologies in vision sciences.


1 The results of this research project have just been published in the prestigious journal Cell Metabolism.


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