Due to a recent discovery of a naturally occurring protein, scientists believe this may be the ticket to protecting the eye from glaucoma: one of the leading causes of blindness.
Glaucoma affects about 2.2 million adults nationwide, and is one of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness. Its primary cause is a buildup of eye pressure, which damages the optic nerve. This then prevents the transmission of visual signals and information to the brain, resulting in vision loss/blindness.
However, Dr. Vivek Gupta and his colleagues have found the protein “neuroserpin” protects nerve cells against damage, thereby combatting glaucoma from forming.
Neurosperin is able to protect the cells by blocking the enzyme plasmin from creating damage. This is important, since over time these enzymes can slowly digest the eye tissue and cause cell death, which then leads to the adverse side effects of glaucoma.
After analyzing samples of retinal cells of humans with and without glaucoma, as well as of rat models, the scientists made a fascinating discovery.
According to Medical News Today:
Interestingly, the researchers found that neuroserpin was inactive in retinal cells from glaucoma patients and in the retinas of glaucoma rat models, which prevented the protein from inhibiting plasmin activity.
“Ophthalmologists and vision scientists have always wondered what damages the optic nerve in the back of the eyes, which is widely observed in glaucoma,” notes study co-author Dr. Mehdi Mirzaei, of the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences at Macquarie University.
Although there is currently no cure for glaucoma, Dr. Gupta and his colleagues are confident that this discovery will lead to further research of this protein, and will be the start of new treatments and strategies to help prevent the disease from forming.