Breakthrough discovery provides glimmer of hope to prevent blindness

Macquarie University
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Researchers at Macquarie University, Australia led by Dr. Vivek Gupta discovery a naturally occurring protein in the body that protects the eye and whose deterioration leads to irreversible damage

  • Naturally occurring protein neuroserpin protects the eye from Glaucoma, a disease that causes 1.3 lakh Indians to go blind every year
  • Once inactive through ageing, disease or environmental factors such as oxidative stress, neuroserpin is no longer able to regulate other enzymes in the eyes
  • The breakthrough findings help understand the disease mechanism of Glaucoma and will lead to new treatment avenues for the disease

New Delhi, October 12, 2017: Macquarie University researchers have discovered that a naturally occurring protein in the body protects the eye from the common eye disease glaucoma, and which is particularly sensitive to oxidation through environmental factors that may include cigarette smoke, in research published in Scientific Reports.

The researchers have established that the protein ‘neuroserpin’ is critical to a healthy retina, regulating other enzymes and maintaining a natural protective environment in the eye.

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Neuroserpin belongs to a family of proteins ‘serpins’ that are particularly sensitive to oxidation through environmental factors.

“Over a long period of time, increased enzyme activity gradually digests the eye tissue and promotes cell death causing the adverse effects associated with glaucoma, a major blinding disorder among the aged worldwide,” said lead author Dr Vivek Gupta from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Macquarie University.

Once neuroserpin is deactivated due to ageing, disease or environmental factors, it is no longer able to protect the eye and the retina and optic nerve is compromised, leading to irreversible damage to the eye.

“Ophthalmologists and vision scientists have always wondered what damages the optic nerve in the back of the eyes, which is widely observed in glaucoma. The breakthrough findings of this study help us understand the disease mechanism and answer a key question that has eluded scientists for several years,” said co-author Dr Mehdi Mirzaei.

“This long-term collaborative study has opened up a completely new line of investigation in glaucoma research that will lead to new treatment avenues for the disease,” said Dr Gupta.

Researchers will use these findings to explore genetic engineering techniques to generate ‘modified neuroserpin’ protein that is resistant to oxidation, and make the protein sustainably available in the eye to inhibit the damaging enzymes and protect eye sight.

Future research will also highlight if antioxidants can play an important role in protecting the eyes in glaucoma.

About Macquarie University, Australia

Established in Sydney in 1964, Macquarie University is consistently ranked amongst the Top 10 universities in Australia (ARWU, 2015) and Top 200 in the world (QS, 2015). It is ranked amongst the top 100 in the world in nine disciplines (QS 2015 rankings by subject). It was created during a time of extraordinary social transformation to be a different kind of university: it was, and will always be, a bold experiment in higher education. True to its founders’ vision, the University has challenged the conventional thinking of academia through innovations in its campus set-up, curricula, interdisciplinary research and engagement with industry and the wider community.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Macquarie’s approach has paid off. Hundred percent of its research activity is rated through the ‘Excellence in Research for Australia’ initiative at world standard or higher, and it has received a rating of 5 stars across all categories measured by QS. 90% of its graduates under the age of 25 are employed within 6 months of completing their studies. More importantly, the University has helped to form generations of individuals who are audacious and responsible leaders in their field and active members of their communities.

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