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Brain Res Bull. 2010 Feb 15;81(2-3):236-47. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresbull.2009.08.008. Epub 2009 Aug 14.

Diabetic keratopathy and treatment by modulation of the opioid growth factor (OGF)-OGF receptor (OGFr) axis with naltrexone: a review.

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Department of Neural & Behavioral Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA.


The opioid growth factor (OGF)-OGF receptors (OGFr) axis plays an important role in the homeostasis and re-epithelialization of the mammalian cornea. This tonically active growth regulatory inhibitory pathway is involved in cell replication, and the endogenous neuropeptide OGF targets cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors, p16 and/or p21. Blockade of OGF-OGFr interfacing by systemic or topical administration of opioid antagonists such as naltrexone (NTX) results in accelerated DNA synthesis, cell replication, and tissue repair. Molecular manipulation of OGFr using sense constructs delayed corneal re-epithelialization, whereas antisense constructs accelerated repair of the corneal surface. Corneal keratopathy, a significant complication of diabetes mellitus, is manifested by delays in corneal re-epithelialization following surgery, injury, or disease. Tissue culture studies have shown that addition of NTX stimulates DNA synthesis and explant outgrowth of rabbit corneal epithelium, whereas OGF depresses DNA synthesis and explant outgrowth in a receptor-mediated manner. NTX accelerated corneal re-epithelialization in organ cultures of human and rabbit cornea. Systemic application of NTX to the abraded corneas of rats, and topical administration of NTX to the injured rabbit ocular surface, increased re-epithelialization. Systemic injections or topical administration of NTX facilitates re-epithelialization of the cornea in diabetic rats. Given the vital role of the corneal epithelium in maintaining vision, the frequency of corneal complications related to diabetes (diabetic keratopathy), and the problems occurring in diabetic individuals postoperatively (e.g., vitrectomy), and that conventional therapies such as artificial tears and bandage contact lenses often fail, topical application of NTX merits clinical consideration.

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