By Adrian Galbreth
As one of the leading causes of vision loss on the planet, glaucoma is understandably the focus of many studies, though a new one appears to have come closer than most to creating a new treatment for the blinding condition.
In glaucoma patients, the optic nerve, which relays information from the eye to the brain, is damaged, though the molecular cause of nerve damage is unclear – something that Dr Simon John, from Tufts University in Boston, aimed to explore in a new study.
Along with a team of colleagues at the facility, he set out to understand the earliest events that lead to optic nerve damage in glaucoma.
Using a mouse model of the disease, the researchers revealed that inflammatory immune cells called monocytes cross blood vessels and invade the optic nerve.
However, they discovered that mice treated with a single X-ray treatment in their eyes prior to the onset of glaucoma were protected from developing the disease later in life.
Thanks to an as-yet unknown mechanism, the X-ray treatment prevented neuroinflammation and allowed mice to avoid glaucoma development, even in the presence of other risk factors, Dr John explained.
Further research by the John team will now aim to find out why the X-ray treatment effectively blocked glaucoma in the mouse model system, and whether this strategy may someday be adapted to prevent glaucoma in people.
It complements a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, which found that targeted x-ray treatment of an individual eye could prevent the onset of glaucoma.
Jackson Laboratory researchers found that when target x-ray therapy was given to young mice that would be prone to glaucoma in later life, that eye remained free from the condition throughout their existence, which could pave the way for the development of new treatments for use in humans.
by Martin Burns