The effect of varying glucose levels on theex vivocrystalline lens: implications for hyperglycaemia-induced refractive changes

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Abstract

Purpose:

Refractive changes in diabetic eyes have long been reported but with equivocal results. The lens has been a more recent focus as the source of any change but it is possible that multiple sources of variation have made it difficult to demonstrate a systematic change clinically. The aim of this study was therefore to use a bovine lens model to investigate the optical changes in hyperglycaemia and when lenses are returned to normal glucose levels as would occur following commencement of treatment.

Method:

Bovine eyes were obtained and their lenses excised under sterile conditions before placing them in culture medium within an incubator using standard tissue culture techniques. In the first experiment, lenses were transferred into culture medium containing 5 mm (n = 12), 15 mm (n = 12) and 30 mm (n = 12) glucose. Measurements were made of the change in back vertex focusing distance with equatorial lens diameter using the ScanTox™ measurement system. From these measurements, the back vertex focal length and primary longitudinal spherical aberration were derived. In a second experiment, lenses maintained at 30 mm glucose (n = 7) were stepped down to 5 mm glucose to simulate starting diabetic therapy and measured in the same way. Changes over time were assessed with a linear regression model.

Results:

A trend towards myopia was observed with increasing hyperglycaemia, this was not statistically significant. When lenses were stepped-down from hyperglycaemia to normal physiological levels of glucose, a hyperopic shift was observed in line with published clinical studies that again failed to reach statistical significance. High variability in the measurement on longitudinal spherical aberration prevented any significant trends being measured.

Conclusions:

Our results suggest that there are no consistent crystalline lens-induced refractive changes following exposure to hyperglycaemia for time-periods up to 5 days used in the current study. It is possible that bovine lenses are able to offset the raised osmotic pressure from high glucose levels in the short-term by a process of osmoregulation and that repeated osmotic stress or longer term exposure may be required to induce the changes in refraction that are seen clinically.

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