Posted May 20, 2019
The retina, located in the back of the eye, senses light and sends images through the optic nerve to the brain. It also provides the sharp vision needed for reading, driving and seeing fine detail. Years ago, researchers discovered that some diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and glaucoma, can damage the retina. It also can be injured during vehicle accidents or explosions. Recently, researchers discovered a possible new treatment for retina damage from disease and injury. Here are three things to know.
Identifying vision loss
Damage to the retina often leads to vision loss. Medical experts explain that when the retina is injured through disease or an accident, blood vessels are affected. The veins carry neurons between the optic nerve and the brain. When they are damaged, neurons die, and the brain doesn’t receive visual information. Eventually, vision loss occurs.
Understanding how enzymes repair tissue damage
Scientists believe that when the retina is damaged the tissue becomes inflamed. The immune system sends out large white blood cells, called macrophages, to heal the damage. There are two types of white cells: M1s that increase inflammation, and M2s that repair damage.
Researchers found that the M1 cells contain the enzyme arginase 2, which is why M1s can increase inflammation and neuron loss. M2 white cells have an enzyme called arginase 1, which appears to reduce destructive inflammation. Often with eye injuries, when arginase 2 increases, arginase 1 decreases.
Testing treatment options
After discovering the value of the M2 white cell, researchers explored treatment ideas. One idea that has worked is to create a more stable form of the arginase 1 enzyme. In tests, when the new enzyme was added to blood vessels, it helped repair retina damage from disease and injury.
Researchers will continue to study the M1 and M2 enzymes to learn more about how to use them for healing retina damage.
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