Medical

MIT research points to autoimmune disease as the cause of glaucoma

MIT research points to autoimm...
The body's own immune cells may be the culprit behind the slow retinal deterioration associated with glaucoma
The body's own immune cells may be the culprit behind the slow retinal deterioration associated with glaucoma
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The body's own immune cells may be the culprit behind the slow retinal deterioration associated with glaucoma
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The body's own immune cells may be the culprit behind the slow retinal deterioration associated with glaucoma

An exciting breakthrough from a team of researchers MIT and Massachusetts Eye and Ear has revealed a new hypothesis behind the cause of glaucoma, a common degenerative eye disease with curiously unexplained origins. The study found an unusually high number of T-cells present in the retinas of those suffering from the disease, suggesting the condition may have a previously undetected autoimmune cause.

Until now, scientists thought the primary cause of glaucoma was an increased pressure in the eye. This high eye pressure has been thought to result in a slow damage to the optic nerve, sometimes eventually leading to blindness. While measuring fluid pressure in the eye is still the best way to identify those at risk of developing glaucoma, it has frustratingly not answered all the questions surrounding the disease.

A number of people can be found to have the disease without any signs of elevated eye pressure, and conversely, some can have elevated eye pressure for years without any corresponding eye damage. Continued eye degradation has also been seen in many patients after eye pressure has been surgically reduced.

"That led us to the thought that this pressure change must be triggering something progressive, and the first thing that came to mind is that it has to be an immune response," explains Dong Feng Chen, senior author on the new research.

The researchers initially examined the retinas of mice with induced high intraocular pressure. T-cells were unexpectedly found in the mouse retinas, which was strange as these immune cells are usually kept out of the retina by a strong layer of cells, often referred to as the blood-retina barrier. This suggested that something to do with the raising of eye pressure allowed these T-cells to slip past the eye's protective barrier.

When eye pressure was raised in mice that had been engineered to lack T-cells only a minimal amount of damage was seen to be caused on the retina. This led the researchers to confidently hypothesize that intraocular pressure in and of itself was not the primary cause of glaucoma eye damage.

The next stage of the research revealed that these T-cells found in the retina were specifically targeting heat shock proteins. It was suspected that these T-cells had been previously simulated by bacterial heat shock proteins, causing the immune cells to subsequently be primed to attack healthy eye cells in the presence of these organic proteins that normally should not attract T-cells.

Examining human subjects, the researchers discovered that glaucoma patients were found to have T-cells with heat shock protein sensitivity at levels five times higher than subjects without glaucoma. The overriding hypothesis is that it is these specific immune cells that cause the degenerative retina damage associated with glaucoma. It is still early days for the research and the next steps will involve further investigations into autoimmune processes that could lead to glaucoma.

More hypothetically, the researchers suggest this mechanism could also be involved in other neurodegenerative diseases. A burgeoning field of research is suggesting autoimmune causes behind several neurological conditions, including Parkinson's disease and psychosis. This new research hopes to pave the way for entirely new treatments targeting autoimmune activity as a way to combat a host of brain diseases.

"What we learn from the eye can be applied to the brain diseases, and may eventually help develop new methods of treatment and diagnosis," says Dong Feng Chen, a senior author of the study.

The new research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: MIT

3 comments
S Michael
Good article. It also bolstered my belief that scientist has just scratched the surface when it comes to autoimmune and inflammation research along with bacterial causes of illnesses.
EZ
Time to toss the eye drops? I wonder if antihistamine eye drops would help? Allergy type eye drops?
KungfuSteve
The 60s Hybrid Wheat... is causing massive Auto-Immune responses. Depending on the health and biological strength... this can slowly cause effects over the course of like 3 generations of reproduction... progressively getting worse and worse each generation. Its especially compounded... by the fact that Pregnant mothers whom eat wheat... are causing developmental issued within the fetus... and later... in the now much "slower" to develop Child. This can initially show up as the mother not being able to hold down food well. Premature birth. Child being extremely thin / under-weight, frail, easy to get sick, in pain/crying a lot, mentally a bit slow, initial speech issues/impediments, poor ability to focus, easily frustrated, bad moods/mood swings, poor coordination, day-dreamy / mental fog, dyslexia, slower learning, being far more "Tired" than should be, ...and much more. The Child may eventually level out to a certain degree... and overcome the initial development issues. However... they will never be the same as a 100% healthy individual. And... as they get into the adult years... the allergic response can go from a mild level of being tired... to an extreme level of Auto-Immune issues... Often starting with the need to remove the Gall Bladder. Being that there is lower and lower absorption to nutrients... the body chemistry can get all messed up... causing the Thyroid to have issues. In my case.. a nodule started to form on mine... and I had half of my Thyroid removed, as a result. Later yet... the Bowel will start to have issues. Bloating, Constipation, and or horribly quick and Explosive...Diarrhea. As the immune system is Constantly fighting the Foreign Protein... which ends up getting into the bloodstream... causing these auto-immune responses... the negative health impacts can be quite severe. AND... the Cells seem to eventually give-out... as the immune system losses its ability to deal with the constant strain and struggles... causing some serious issues with stress-related pains... so bad... that the body feels like its on fire. In my case.. I often crash after being stressed... and need like 2hrs worth of a nap... just to be able to function again. At the most extreme end... the body hits rock bottom... and goes full blown Celiac. I am fortunate... that I had realized things... before my system got to this level. Some whom are... and whom get even a tiny trace of wheat in their systems... can often become physically and violently Ill for several days worth of time. Though... sadly.. I know that as I age more... my own system is going to get less and less able to deal with contamination. That I will have more and more pain and suffering, with less and less energy. = [ Its hard enough to deal with on this level. I have met many others in similar states.. and or much much worse states... and when comparing childhoods, and effects... there is a lot of similar experiences to what I went through. (all of which I have wrote here... and more) This tampering with nature... has destroyed the quality of my life... and, its continuing to destroy the health, and mental health... of the Westernized worlds citizens. Look to places like Japan and China... and you will see that the number of Mentally Ill, Personality Disordered, Autism, Cancer, Crones, MS, premature deliveries, and much much more... does not even come close to the numbers here. They tend to eat natural rice... not Tampered with Wheat... as their main source of food. There is going to be a major health crisis in the west... in under 50 years from today. Mark my words... you will see Gluten issues skyrocket... to 1 in every 25 citizens.. or worse. (If the West's Mentally Ill / Personality Disordered individuals do not Destroy the west before that time period. ;[ )