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Glaucoma Bad News Good News

Posted by Ilena Di Toro | Posted on August 31, 2021

Who wants to get glaucoma?

I suspect the answer is no one and here’s some bad news on the glaucoma front.Glaucoma can lead to facial recognition impairment.

A study reported in the Review of Cornea and Contact Lenses sought to learn the direct association between facial recognition and macular structural damage in glaucoma patients. Macular damage in the eye with better vision was determined by mean RGC+ and was listed as focal, diffuse or mixed.

Participants had a comprehensive eye exam and facial recognition was evaluated using the Cambridge Face Memory Test. Fifty-four out of the 68 eyes in the study had structural macular damage and 14 did not. There was no difference between eyes with or without macular damage with respect to age, glaucoma medications, visual acuity or astigmatism.

The study revealed that decreased mean RGC+ in the better seeing eye was associated with reduced facial recognition, even when adjusting for central visual field loss. In fact, those with diffuse macular damage recognized fewer faces then those with focal macular damage or those who don’t have macular damage. This suggests that diffuse macular damage in the better seeing eye may be associated with a reduce ability to recognize facial expressions.

Yet, there is some good news to share when it comes to glaucoma. Scientists at Cardiff University in Wales are studying if stem cells can help prevent vision loss. While they have demonstrated that transplanting stem cells from bone marrow can prevent the death of retinal ganglion cells, now they want to use cellular structures in the bone marrow stem cells, known as exosomes, to copy the same benefits without the need for a transplant. The researchers are looking to see which stem cell type is best suited for clinical testing.

What makes the stem cells so great as a way to prevent vision loss is that they secret substances that act as protective agents for the retinal ganglion cells. The hope is to isolate the exosomes and copy the same beneficial effects without having to go the route of a transplant. The beauty of this approach is that it is both safer and can be more effective since higher doses of the exosomes can be used, if needed.

While no one wants to get glaucoma, these studies demonstrate two things. One, the importance of regular eye exams, since glaucoma is easiest to manage when it is found in its earliest stages. Two, research is uncovering a possible treatment that can do more than just manage the disease, it can prevent vision loss in the first place.

Sources:
https://www.reviewofoptometry.com/news/article/glaucoma-may-impair-facial-recognition

https://www.aop.org.uk/ot/science-and-vision/research/2021/04/01/glaucoma-could-bone-marrow-help-prevent-sight-loss

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