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Sight loss after brain injury

Reducing inflammation in the optic nerve could help prevent vision loss following head trauma

Athlete with an injury

Researchers have shed new light on the cause of permanent vision loss following a head injury.

The University of Texas Medical Branch study found that inflammation brought on by white blood cells played a role in vision loss caused by head trauma.

University of Texas Medical Branch department of ophthalmology and visual sciences associate professor, Wenbo Zhang, told OT inflammation was part of the body’s defence system but uncontrolled inflammation could make injuries worse.

The study, published in The American Journal of Pathology, shows that one of the protein receptors on white blood cells, CXCR3, brings white blood cells to the optic nerve after damaged nerve tissue produces the binding partner, CXCL10.

When CXCR3 was deleted or blocked in mice following optic nerve damage, researchers observed less damage to the optic nerve and nerve cell function was preserved compared with mice that did not receive any intervention.

Using real-time non-invasive imaging, the study team also observed fewer white blood cells at the injury location among mice with deleted or blocked CXCR3.

It is hoped that further studies may aid the development of new treatments for diseases associated with nerve injury, including stroke, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma as well as traumatic optic neuropathy.

Image credit: Aaron Sholl