Scientists Reversed Glaucoma in Mice With the Help of a Single Gene
by Christina Galbraith
The Ingenious Gene
Glaucoma is a devastating disease of the eye that is typically associated with aging. It’s the leading cause of blindness, along with cataracts and macular degeneration, affecting 70 million people worldwide. Specifically, glaucoma comes from the deterioration of retinal nerve ganglion cells. There is currently no cure. For the first time, scientists at the Vision Institute (Sorbonne University) and the National Institute of Health and Medicine have prevented and reversed glaucoma in over 70 mice by injecting them with a single gene.
The ingenious gene that the scientific team injected into the glaucomatous mice is called Ngb, which codes for neuroglobin, a protein that is abundant throughout the brain and eye. Neuroglobin scavenges toxic reactive oxygen species (ROS) such as hydrogen peroxide, nitric oxide, and other radicals that corrode the body. It also protects the mitochondria — the cell’s smoky, ROS-ridden energy producer — in a host of ways. The Paris team showed how in glaucomatous retinal nerve cells, there is significant mitochondrial dysfunction as well as a 50 percent loss of neuroglobin. Unlike most other cells, they are highly dependent on mitochondria for energy supply, since they don’t have the fatty myelin sheath to insulate energy and boost synaptic signaling.
To deliver the Nbg gene into the mice, the scientists used an adeno-associated viral vector (AAV), a virus whose DNA has been removed and replaced with a gene of the scientist’s choice. The Ngb-filled AAV was then proliferated in the lab, and injected into the retina of 55 young mice (aged 2 months with a predisposition for glaucoma) and into 18 old mice (aged 8 months with developed glaucoma)….