Every year, millions of people around the world suffer from vision deterioration which eventually leads to blindness, and for many these conditions are incurable, resulting in their quality of life being severely impaired.
However, international eye experts may have found they key to making life easier for sufferers of one blinding condition, and perhaps preventing the development of other diseases in many people.
A study led by a student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine claims that, in the rare eye disease Enhanced S-Cone Syndrome, the retina degenerates because light-receiving cells fail to regenerate.
The specialists found that when the natural renewal process fails, metabolites are locked in, build up and turn toxic, which kills cells over time and leads to vision loss.
However, according to the experts, the results of this study provide a target to treat and prevent blindness caused by the disease, which is also known as Goldmann-Favre Syndrome.
Experts including Dr Samuel G Jacobson"s group at the University of Pennsylvania and Dr Andreas Engel"s group at the University of Basel, Switzerland, have published the story in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
In it, lead author Debarshi Mustafi, details how the knowledge that photoreceptor cells affect their own renewal will surely have an impact on other, more common, forms of retinal degeneration.
"Although rare, Enhanced S-Cone Syndrome helps us understand critical visual processing errors that arise in disease," he elaborates.
Krzysztof Palczweski, John H Hord Professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology at CWRU School of Medicine, added: "What we learn from this inherited human disease, and its mouse model, will be helpful to understand the aging process of the retina, like that seen in age-related macular degeneration."
He added that it is "very likely" that the phagocytotic process described in the report is a dysfunction which occurs through ageing.
by Adrian Galbreth