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University of Arizona researchers are working to understand, and eventually counteract, the retinal damage that leads to blindness in diabetics.

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults in the U.S., said Erika Eggers, UA assistant professor of physiology and biomedical engineering.

The effects of going blind as an adult can be very traumatic, she said.

"People (who) are born blind, or lose their vision early on...the brain (has) other mechanisms to compensate for that," Eggers said. "...for someone who is older...it's much more difficult to (adapt) going blind."

Eggers received a grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to aid research in identifying the early mechanisms of diabetic retinal damage.

"We're the first lab that is...trying to make electrical recordings from individual neurons in the retina," Eggers said. "No one else has looked at the small cellular level to try to understand what changes are happening in the cell."

Eggers also applied for grants from the American Diabetes Association and National Institutes of Health.