Autoimmune response drives neurodegeneration in glaucoma

A research team from Massachusetts Eye and Ear and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has shown that immune cells in the eye that developed in response to early exposure to bacteria are a key contributor to progressive vision loss from glaucoma, the second leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world.

The findings, published online in Nature Communications, suggest that high pressure in the eye leads to vision loss by setting into motion an autoimmune response that attacks the neurons in the eye -- similar to immune responses triggered by bacterial infections. The discovery of these immune cells also reveals a promising new target for future therapies to be developed for the blinding condition.

"Our work shows that there is hope for finding a cure for glaucoma, or even preventing its development entirely, if we can find a way to target this pathway," said co-senior author

This research was supported by grants EY025913, EY027067, EY025259, NS038253 and AI69209 from the National Institutes of Health, 81200683 and 20120165 from the National Nature Science Foundation of China, P30-CA14051 from the National Cancer Institute and P30EY03790 from the National Eye Institute.

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