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Antioxidants Preserve Cone Cells In the Eye

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University were fruitful in preventing the progress of retinitis pigmentosa (RP) using the combination of chemicals such// as vitamin E, alpha-lipoic acid and other antioxidant.

Experiments using mice in the treatment of retinal degeneration was very successful. ‘Much more work needs to be done to determine if what we did in mice will work in humans,’ said Peter Campochiaro, the Eccles Professor of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. ‘But these findings have helped to solve a mystery.’ In patients with RP, rod photoreceptors die from a mutation, but it has not been known why cone photoreceptors die. After rods die, the level of oxygen in the retina goes up, and this work shows that it is the high oxygen that gradually kills the cones. Oxygen damage is also called ‘oxidative damage’ and can be reduced by antioxidants.

So for the first time, scientists have a treatment target in patients with RP, added Campochiaro. His team's findings appeared in the July online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Retinas in all mammals, from mouse to man, are made up of light-sensitive cells known as cones and rods, named for their shapes, which convert light into nerve signals that are then transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve. Cones are needed to see colors and make vision possible in bright light, whereas the far more numerous rods permit sight in low light. The human retina contains approximately 125 million rod cells and six million cone cells. In diseases like RP and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), these cells die off and eventually lead to blindness (in the case of RP) or legal blindness (in the case of AMD).

In earlier studies exposing mice to pure oxygen, the Hopkins scientists found that high levels of oxygen in the retina killed both rods and cones, said Campochiaro. ‘This was the clue that the high oxygen levels that occ
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