Researchers eye link between Alzheimer's and glaucoma

British research has shown for the first time that a protein involved in Alzheimer's disease also plays an important role in glaucoma, the major cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, said a study released.

 Researchers eye link between Alzheimer's and glaucoma
British research has shown for the first time that a protein involved in Alzheimer's disease also plays an important role in glaucoma, the major cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, said a study released.

Using a novel optical technology, investigators at University College London showed that the protein beta-amyloid which causes the so-called "plaque" lesions in the brains of Alzheimer's patients also leads to nerve cell death in the retina, the inner-most layer of the eye.

"We've seen for the first time that there is a clear link between what causes Alzheimer's disease and one of the most basic mechanisms behind glaucoma," said Francesca Cordeiro, a glaucoma specialist at UCL.

Up to 65 million people suffer from glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. The condition is incurable although surgery and medication can slow or prevent further vision loss.

It was once thought that increased eye pressure or intraocular pressure (IOP) was the main cause of optic nerve damage, but IOP is now seen only as a risk factor because even people with normal eye pressure can develop the condition.

In experiments on rats, Cordeiro and her colleagues showed that the dying retinal cells had an accumulation of beta-amyloid. When they added the protein to retinal cells in test tubes, it induced cell death.

They also showed that drugs that work to prevent the build-up of beta-amyloid in Alzheimer's patients' brains can delay the onset of glaucoma in animal models. One such drug, Bapineuzumab, is already being tested in clinical trials on Alzheimer's patients in the United States and Ireland.

However, the investigators found that it was even more effective when combined with two other novel Alzheimer's treatments.

"We are trying a new approach that has never been tried before, not even to treat Alzheimer's disease," said Dr Cordeiro. "Our success in treating glaucoma in the lab by combining different Alzheimer's treatments represents a brand new treatment strategy."

"Since we have shown that drugs for Alzheimer's disease can tackle glaucoma," Cordeiro added, "then potentially we could use damaged retina to screen for Alzheimer's drugs that target amyloid-beta build-up."

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

AFP
Last Mod: 07 Ağustos 2007, 11:11
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