One Step Closer To Understanding The Origins Of Eye Disease
April 4, 2013

New Technique For Studying Eye Diseases Developed In Sweden

Jason Pierce, MSN, MBA, RN for — Your Universe Online

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have published a study describing the use of an innovative process to examine the effect of tension in maintaining retinal tissue. The method allows the retinal tissue to be studied outside the body while simulating the mechanical strain experienced by the tissue in the human body. The authors anticipate that the method will lead to better understanding of the reason for vision loss in diseases of the eye such as glaucoma and retinal detachment.

Glaucoma involves damage to the optic nerve cause by increased pressure within the eye. The amount of pressure needed to cause damage varies among individuals, and not everyone with increased pressure will develop glaucoma. Damage can even occur at low pressure levels in some individuals. The damage impairs vision and this impairment may remain even after treatment.

Retinal detachment involves a separation of the retina, the layer of tissue that transmits visual information to the optic nerve, from the tissue connecting it with the rest of the eye. It is a medical emergency that results from trauma or injury to the eye. Permanent vision loss can occur without immediate treatment, and some loss of vision may remain even after proper treatment.

Both of these conditions have a common element of pressure and tension on the tissues involved. These elements are described as biomechanical factors. The conditions also involve a number of chemical processes. These are described as biochemical factors. Research up to this point has largely focused on the biochemical factors.

“We have not previously understood the mechanisms behind glaucoma and retinal detachment, but we knew that these diseases had a strong mechanical component. Our findings could form an initial explanation as to why we develop these diseases”, said authors Fredrik Ghosh and Linnéa Taylor.

Up to this point the biochemical factors have been studied using tissue that has been removed from the body and placed in a liquid or gel substance designed to sustain the tissue. The tissue floats freely or loosely within the substance and is not subject to the same stretch and tension found within the body. After a few days the tissue dies.

The method developed for the current study uses retinal tissue that is maintained in a stretched state similar to that found within the body. This stretched tissue survived much longer and demonstrated less damage to central nervous system (CNS) cells. This indicates that when a disease process impairs biomechanical factors, such as in glaucoma and retinal detachment, the tissue dies quicker and experiences more damage to CNS cells.

“This gives us new tools to understand in a more concrete manner how biomechanical factors in the central nervous system influence the health of cells when we are healthy and when we suffer from diseases. This will not only have major importance for our understanding of how diseases come about in the central nervous system, but also for future disease treatment”, said the researchers.