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Diabetic cataract in the Nile grass rat: A longitudinal phenotypic study of pathology formation.

  • Ranaei Pirmardan, Ehsan1
  • Barakat, Aliaa1
  • Zhang, Yuanlin1
  • Naseri, Marzieh2, 3
  • Hafezi-Moghadam, Ali1
  • 1 Molecular Biomarkers Nano-Imaging Laboratory, Department of Radiology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.
  • 2 Oncopathology Research Center, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran. , (Iran)
  • 3 Department of Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Advanced Technologies in Medicine, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran. , (Iran)
Published Article
The FASEB Journal
Federation of American Society for Experimental Biology
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1096/fj.202100353R
PMID: 33991133


Diabetes is a major risk factor for cataract, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. There is an unmet need for a realistic model of diabetic cataract for mechanistic and longitudinal studies, as existing models do not reflect key aspects of the complex human disease. Here, we introduce and characterize diabetic cataract in the Nile grass rat (NGR, Arvicanthis niloticus), an established model of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes (T2D). We conducted a longitudinal study of cataract in over 88 NGRs in their non-diabetic, pre-diabetic, and diabetic stages of metabolism. Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT) results distinguished the metabolic stages. Diverse cataract types were observed in the course of diabetes, including cortical, posterior subcapsular (PSC), and anterior subcapsular (ASC), all of which succeeded a characteristic dotted ring stage in all animals. The onset ages of diabetes and cataract were 44 ± 3 vs 29 ± 1 (P < .001) and 66 ± 5 vs 58 ± 6 (not significant) weeks in females and males, respectively. Histological analysis revealed fiber disorganization, vacuolar structures, and cellular proliferation and migration in cataractous lenses. The lens epithelial cells (LECs) in non-diabetic young NGRs expressed the stress marker GRP78, as did LECs and migrated cells in the lenses of diabetic animals. Elucidating mechanisms underlying LEC proliferation and migration will be clinically valuable in prevention and treatment of posterior capsule opacification, a dreaded complication of cataract surgery. Marked changes in N-cadherin expression emphasized a role for LEC integrity in cataractogenesis. Apoptotic cells were dispersed in the equatorial areas in early cataractogenesis. Our study reveals diverse cataract types that spontaneously develop in the diabetic NGR, and which uniquely mirror the cataract and its chronic course of development in individuals with diabetes. We provide mechanistic insights into early stages of diabetic cataract. These unique characteristics make NGR highly suited for mechanistic studies, especially in the context of metabolism, diabetes, and aging. © 2021 Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

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