Magazine article Science News

Nerve Link: Alzheimer's Suspect Shows Up in Glaucoma

Magazine article Science News

Nerve Link: Alzheimer's Suspect Shows Up in Glaucoma

Article excerpt

A protein fragment that litters the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease may also bear responsibility for some of the vision loss in glaucoma, a new study in rats shows.

Glaucoma patients typically have abnormal fluid pressure within the eye, but it remains unknown how this stress kills the nerve cells at the back of the retina. While there is no cure for glaucoma, easing eye pressure with drugs or surgery helps prevent vision loss in many patients.

Some glaucoma patients, however, experience vision loss even with normal eye pressure, indicating that other factors are sometimes involved.

The new research suggests that one hidden assailant is amyloid-beta, the same protein fragment that accumulates in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. An earlier rodent study of glaucoma had found the substance in the animals' eyes, but other evidence of amyloid-beta in glaucoma is scarce.

In the new study, ophthalmologist M. Francesca Cordeiro of University College London and her colleagues induced glaucoma in 60 rats by injecting saline into the animals' eyes. Within weeks, amyloid-beta deposits showed up in dying retinal-nerve cells.

The researchers then gave another round of eye injections to some of the rats. In one eye, the animals received a synthetic antibody that absorbs amyloid-beta. The other eye got a placebo.

After 3 weeks, the medicated eyes showed only one-fourth as much retinal-cell death as did the untreated eyes, the researchers report in an upcoming Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. …

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