Higher Risk of Dementia for Millions with Eye Conditions

Millions of people with eye conditions including age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes-related eye disease have an increased risk of developing dementia, new research shows. Vision impairment can be one of the first signs of the disease, which is predicted to affect more than 130 million people worldwide by 2050.

Previous research has suggested there could be a link between eye conditions that cause vision impairment, and cognitive impairment. However, the incidence of these conditions increases with age, as do systemic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, depression and stroke, which are all accepted risk factors for dementia. That meant it was unclear whether eye conditions were linked with a higher incidence of dementia independently of systemic conditions.

Now researchers have found that age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes-related eye disease are independently associated with increased risk of dementia, according to a new study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

The research examined data from 12,364 British adults aged 55 to 73, who were taking part in the UK Biobank study. They were assessed in 2006 and again in 2010 with their health information tracked until early 2021. More than 2,300 cases of dementia were documented, according to the international team of experts led by academics from the Guangdong Eye Institute in China. After assessing health data, researchers found those with age-related macular degeneration had a 26% increased risk of developing dementia. Those with cataracts had an 11% increased risk and people with diabetes-related eye disease had a 61% heightened risk. Glaucoma was not linked to a significant increase in risk.

Researchers also found that people with conditions including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and depression were also more likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Risk was highest among people with one of these conditions who also had some form of eye condition, they said.

Age-related macular degeneration, cataract and diabetes-related eye disease but not glaucoma are associated with an increased risk of dementia,” the authors concluded.

Individuals with both ophthalmic and systemic conditions are at higher risk of dementia compared with those with an ophthalmic or systemic condition only.”

The study comes as Alzheimer’s Research UK says public willingness to get involved with medical research is at an “all-time high”. The charity said 29% of adults were more likely to consider getting involved in medical research because of the pandemic, according to a poll of 1,000 adults across England, Scotland and Wales.

The survey found that 69% said they would be willing to get involved with dementia research, compared with 50% of a sample of people from a year ago.

This is positive news for the thousands of studies waiting to get under way to help understand and tackle health conditions like dementia, cancer, and heart disease,” said Hilary Evans, the chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/

Human Retinas Grown In A Dish

Biologists at Johns Hopkins University grew human retinas from scratch to determine how cells that allow people to see in color are made. The work, set for publication in the journal Science, lays the foundation to develop therapies for eye diseases such as color blindness and macular degeneration. It also establishes lab-created “organoids” as a model to study human development on a cellular level.

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Everything we examine looks like a normal developing eye, just growing in a dish,” said Robert Johnston, a developmental biologist at Johns Hopkins. “You have a model system that you can manipulate without studying humans directly.” Johnston’s lab explores how a cell’s fate is determined—or what happens in the womb to turn a developing cell into a specific type of cell, an aspect of human biology that is largely unknown. Here, he and his team focused on the cells that allow people to see blue, red and green—the three cone photoreceptors in the human eye.

While most vision research is done on mice and fish, neither of those species has the dynamic daytime and color vision of humans. So Johnston’s team created the human eye tissue they needed—with stem cells. “Trichromatic color vision differentiates us from most other mammals,” said lead author Kiara Eldred, a Johns Hopkins graduate student. “Our research is really trying to figure out what pathways these cells take to give us that special color vision.”

Source: https://hub.jhu.edu/

How To Reverse Congenital Blindness

Researchers funded by the  American National Eye Institute (NEI) have reversed congenital blindness in mice by changing supportive cells in the retina called Müller glia into rod photoreceptors. The findings advance efforts toward regenerative therapies for blinding diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. A report of the findings appears online today in Nature. NEI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

This is the first report of scientists reprogramming Müller glia to become functional in the mammalian ,” said Thomas N. Greenwell, Ph.D., NEI program director for retinal neuroscience. “Rods allow us to see in low light, but they may also help preserve cone photoreceptors, which are important for color vision and high visual acuity. Cones tend to die in later-stage eye diseases. If rods can be regenerated from inside the eye, this might be a strategy for treating diseases of the eye that affect photoreceptors.”

Photoreceptors are light-sensitive cells in the retina in the back of the eye that signal the brain when activated. In mammals, including and humans, photoreceptors fail to regenerate on their own. Like most neurons, once mature they don’t divide.

Scientists have long studied the regenerative potential of Müller glia because in other species, such as zebrafish, they divide in response to injury and can turn into photoreceptors and other retinal neurons. The zebrafish can thus regain vision after severe retinal injury. In the lab, however, scientists can coax mammalian Müller glia to behave more like they do in the fish. But it requires injuring the tissue.

From a practical standpoint, if you’re trying to regenerate the retina to restore a person’s vision, it is counterproductive to injure it first to activate the Müller glia,” said Bo Chen, Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and director of the Ocular Stem Cell Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

We wanted to see if we could program Müller glia to become rod photoreceptors in a living mouse without having to injure its retina,” added Chen, the study’s lead investigator.

Source: https://www.nih.gov/
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