The eyes have it

 
By John Pastor • Published: September 11th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
Play

Drusen is what cholesterol is called when it accumulates underneath the retina. Cholesterol build-up in arteries and veins, commonly known as atherosclerosis, is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke, which together claim the lives of nearly a million Americans a year.

Like hearts and brains, eyeballs can be affected by yellow deposits of cholesterol and other debris. Small deposits are OK and normal with age, but when larger accumulations occur, prospects are never bright.

But by targeting how cholesterol is metabolized in the eye, researchers think they may be able to prevent drusen damage and slow a form of the nation’s leading cause of blindness … age-related macular degeneration.

In a study of mice with a similar ailment, researchers with Washington University in St. Louis used eye drops dosed with a special drug to rejuvenate the body’s natural housekeepers … immune cells known as macrophages.

Macrophages swallow debris and flush it through the bloodstream. But as is typical in the body, the cells don’t work as well with age. The swallowing part is fine, but the evacuation process backs up.

When that happens, macrophages become inflamed and wreak havoc in the eyeball.

But a substance called liver X receptor loaded into eye drops seem to help macrophages flush their systems and keep the eye in a healthy state. When administered to mice, the eye drops brought vision deterioration to a standstill.

More research is needed before a similar product is available to help people.

But when it comes to cholesterol, scientists haven’t forgotten the eyes have it. Additional study may even shed light on solving atherosclerosis. That would truly be a sight to behold.