Complication of diabetes


Research associate

Gianpaolo Zerbini


The aim of the resarch activity of the Complications of Diabetes Unit is to prevent the development of the microvascular complications of diabetes (in particular retinopathy and nephropathy) or, if they are already developed, to induce their remission.

Research activity

  • Diabetic Retinopathy: although laser photocoagulation and/or anti-VEGF treatment represent a valid therapeutical approach in case of established retinopathy, they have no effect in preventing the complication. The recent demonstration that the very early stage of diabetic retinopathy is characterized by a selective retinal neurodegeneration has totally changed the perspectives in the field. Prevention of the "classic" vascular stage of diabetic retinopathy through early retinal neuroprotection now appears as a promising goal. Studies aimed to verify the hypothesis are presently ongoing in our lab.
  • Diabetic Nephropathy: despite an aggressive anti-hypertensive treatment started as soon as microalbuminuria (the first sign of nephropathy) develops, the possibility to prevent or treat the complication, particularly in case of type 2 diabetes, seems to be still out of reach. Probably the pathophysiologic mechanisms leading to the development of diabetic nephropathy are not yet fully understood. The recent demonstration that glomerular podocytes (the target cells of the complication) may survive the disease but are lost in large amount, still viable, with urine (a phenomenon known as podocyturia) has raised the hypothesis that diabetes might interfere with the adhesion of these cells to each other or to the glomerular basement membrane. Studies aimed to verify the hypothesis are presently ongoing in our lab.