While researchers have long known that 70% of our immune system is contained in the digestive tract, new research points to specific immune cells from within the gut that travel to the eyes and impact vision.
The vision loss is due to retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that are damaged when "gut-retina axis" cells bind to a particular protein and access the retina. This loss of RGCs is what's behind the various forms of glaucoma.
Researchers from the University of Electronic Science and Technology found specific cells that expressed a gut-homing receptor, which gained entry to the retina with the help of a specific protein. The research team, using mice, was able to confirm that these cells that access the retina are responsible for the severity of glaucoma in patients. Antibodies were administered to the mice, which greatly reduced the damage caused by the glaucoma.
Additional studies are needed to determine whether the antibody treatment could be used to successfully treat glaucoma.