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Novel circulation in eye could lead to new glaucoma treatments: study

Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto have discovered a previously unidentified circulation within the Human eye, which may bring new insights into glaucoma treatment, a leading cause of irreversible blindness.

Toronto, November 2, 2009

Yeni Yücel Yeni Yücel

Researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the University of Toronto have discovered a previously unidentified circulation within the Human eye, which may bring new insights into glaucoma treatment, a leading cause of irreversible blindness.

The eye has long been considered to lack lymphatics, a type of circulation that pumps fluid and waste out of tissues. The failure to clear this fluid from the eye is associated with glaucoma.

“We challenged this assumption about a lack of lymphatics and discovered specialized lymphatic channels in the human eye,” said lead author Yeni Yücel, a researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital.

Glaucoma is a degenerative eye disease in which the optic nerve at the back of the eye is slowly destroyed. It is often associated with elevated pressure in the eye. Current treatments include eye drops or surgery, with the purpose of bringing the pressure under control, by reducing fluid formation or improving fluid drainage from the eye. Any disorder of this fluid balance can cause high pressure in the eye and irreversible glaucoma damage.

The discovery of a lymphatic circulation in the eye challenges the idea that the eye is an immune privileged site. It has major implications for understanding eye inflammations and eye tumor spread, among other eye disorders.

According to researchers, future studies will strive to learn how to manipulate the lymphatic circulation in the eye.

Glaucoma currently affects 66 million people worldwide. The elderly, people of African-American descent, and people with a history of glaucoma in the family are at increased risk for developing the disease. However it, can affect anybody who experiences elevated eye pressure. Diabetes, high blood pressure and myopia are other factors that may be associated with glaucoma.

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