By Adrian Galbreth
Targeted x-ray treatment of an individual eye could prevent the onset of glaucoma, new research indicates.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that when target x-ray therapy was given to young mice who would be prone to glaucoma in later life, that eye remained free from the condition throughout life.
Research also uncovered some of the very first pathways to change when glaucoma struck in these mice, and one pointed to a critical mechanism that could be responsible for the earliest damage to the optic nerve that occurs during the process.
This research demonstrates that irradiation of just one eye is protective at lower dosage than was previously believed.
It was found that in response to early tissue damage, a type of immune cells known as monocytes enter the optic nerve and retina. These monocytes express damaging molecules believed to be central to the nerve damage seen in glaucoma.
Radiation is believed to change how these cells respond to early tissue stresses in addition to affecting the entry of the monocytes into the optic nerve and retina.
Researchers believe highly controlled localised radiation of the eye could in future be used to prevent human glaucoma, although further studies would first be needed to assess the level of protection afforded as well as the safety of the method.
Authors commented: "Given both the robust and long-term efficacy of a single dose of x-ray radiation in preventing cellular entry into the optic nerve and retina, it will be important to further evaluate the use of x-rays for preventing glaucoma."
These results are not entirely surprising, given that there has been past indications of radiation affecting glaucoma.
Researchers following Japanese survivors of the atomic bombings in World War II found that while the exposure to radiation saw the incidence of cancers rise, it seemed to provide some sort of protection against glaucoma.
by Adrian Galbreth