Scientists discovered a naturally occurring protein that protects the eye from one of the leading causes, glaucoma.
Glaucoma is an umbrella term for a number of diseases that damage the optic nerve, which is the cluster of nerve fibers that links the retina that lines the back of the eye to the brain.
Optic nerve damage disrupts the transmission of visual signals to the brain, which can result in vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma is most commonly caused by a buildup of eye pressure, which can damage the optic nerve.
The team found that a protein called neuroserpin plays a key role in retinal health, but the protein inactivated in glaucoma. Their findings may lead to much-needed strategies to prevent and treat the disease.
Neuroserpin blocks the activity of an enzyme called plasmin, protecting neurons, or nerve cells, against plasmin-induced damage. For study, researchers set out to determine how neuroserpin and plasmin affected by glaucoma.
The researchers came to their findings by analyzing retinal cells derived from humans with and without glaucoma. Also, retinas from rat models of the disease.
The analysis revealed that neuroserpin deactivate in response to oxidative stress, which trigger environmental factors such as air pollution.
Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) that can damage cell structures and the body’s ability to offset their harmful effects.
Interestingly, the researchers found that neuroserpin inactive in retinal cells from glaucoma patients and in the retinas of glaucoma rat models, which prevented the protein from inhibiting plasmin activity.
Around 2.2 million adults aged 40 and older in the United States face Glaucoma affects. It is one of the country’s leading causes of vision loss and blindness.
Currently, there is no cure for glaucoma. But, there treatments can help to slow progression of the disease if it detect early enough.
Their findings will open the door to new strategies that could help to prevent or treat glaucoma.
More information: [Scientific Reports]