A very interesting study using mice has found that intermittent exposure to low levels of oxygen (such as might be found at high altitude) can strengthen retinal nerve cells and prevent glaucoma.
The stress of the intermittent low-oxygen levels promoted a protective response called ‘tolerance’ which makes the nerve cells less prone to damage. Normal mice with glaucoma lost an average of 30% of nerve cells after 10 weeks with the condition, but the mice that were exposed to the oxygen stress lost only 3% of nerve cells.
This research potentially has application in other neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
Previous research we highlighted on this blog shows an increasing interest the theory of classing glaucoma as a neurodegenerative condition rather than related to decreased blood supply or mechanical pressure as traditionally thought.
Glaucoma, long held to be a disease primarily of higher than normal pressure inside the eye, in reality may be a degenerative neurological disease which causes the neural cell death in a similar fashion to Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
In a recent article, specialists presented a view of glaucoma focused on the degeneration of the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and their axons in the optic nerve rather than the traditional explanation of a lack of blood supply or mechanical pressure on the fragile nerves.
This new thinking could pave the way for a whole new generation of medications for treating glaucoma borrowing research and techniques associated with treating other degenerative neurological conditions.
A simple eye test is being developed to detect early signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
The test will look for signs of a build up of the protein beta amyloid in the eye. Neuroptix, the company behind the product say the product uses a special laser to scan the eye and a reciever to monitor the level of protein build-up, a known sign in Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Scientists at University College London have discovered a potential link between glaucoma and Alzheimer’s.
The researchers discovered that the presence of beta-amyloid proteins are key triggers in both conditions. More research is continuing to determine whether glaucoma is an early warning sign of the on-set of Alzheimer’s.