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.
A study has shown that minute eye tremor is highly suggestive of Parkinsons and visible even before any other signs of the disease.
112 patients with Parkinson’s were tested, including newly diagnosed cases and some not yet on medication, demonstrated tiny rapid eye movements when attempting to look at a target. These movements are so small they could only be seen with specialist equipment but could explain why some people with Parkinson’s complain of blurred vision without an obvious cause for this.
The same eye tremor was seen in only two of 60 control subjects showing the power of this sign to accurate differentiate those who have the condition from those who don’t.
Further research is being carried out into how this test could be included as part of a routine eye exam particularly for those with a family history of Parkinson’s.
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.