A chemical known to protect nerve cells also slows glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness, results of a new study in rats show.
Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the study centers on the watery fluid inside the eye on which its function depends. Fluid pressure can build up in patients with glaucoma, wearing down cells in the eye and the nerves connecting them to the brain, researchers say.
However, past studies have shown the condition to continue to worsen even after eye pressure has been controlled. The connection between pressure buildup and impaired vision remains poorly understood.
Published online April 13 in the journal Neurotherapeutics, the new study showed that ingesting the compound citicoline restored optic nerve (neural) signals between the brain and eye to near-normal levels in the study rats. Naturally produced in the brain but also available commercially, citicoline is a major source of choline, a building block in the membranes that line nerve cells and enhance nerve cell communication.
While the study results confirmed past findings that elevated eye pressure contributes to nerve damage in glaucoma, it also showed that citicoline reduced vision loss in rats without reducing fluid pressure in the eye.