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Exercise may slow progression of retinal degeneration

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Animal study points to possible behavioral therapy for people with macular degeneration

Journal of Neuroscience
Journal of Neuroscience (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Washington, DC — Moderate  aerobic exercise helps to preserve the structure and function of nerve cells in  the retina after damage, according to an animal study appearing February 12 in The Journal of Neuroscience. The  findings suggest exercise may be able to slow the progression of retinal  degenerative diseases.

Age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness in the  elderly, is caused by the death of light-sensing nerve cells in the retina  called photoreceptors. Although several studies in animals and humans point to  the protective effects of exercise in neurodegenerative diseases or injury,  less is known about how exercise affects vision.

Machelle Pardue, PhD, together with her colleagues Eric Lawson and Jeffrey H.  Boatright, PhD, at the Atlanta VA Center for Visual and Neurocognitive  Rehabilitation and Emory University, ran mice on a treadmill for two weeks  before and after exposing the animals to bright light that causes retinal  degeneration. The researchers found that treadmill training preserved photoreceptors  and retinal cell function in the mice.

“This is the first report of simple exercise having a direct effect on retinal  health and vision,” Pardue said. “This research may one day lead to tailored  exercise regimens or combination therapies in treatments of blinding diseases.”

In the current study, the scientists trained mice to run on a treadmill for one  hour per day, five days per week, for two weeks. After the animals were exposed  to toxic bright light — a commonly used model of retinal degeneration — they  exercised for two more weeks. The exercised animals lost only half the number  of photoreceptor cells as animals that spent the equivalent amount of time on a  stationary treadmill.

Additionally, the retinal cells of exercised mice were more responsive to light  and had higher levels of a growth- and health-promoting protein called  brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which previous studies have linked to  the beneficial effects of exercise. When the scientists blocked the receptors for  BDNF in the exercised mice, they discovered that retinal function in the exercised  mice was as poor as in the inactive mice, effectively eliminating the  protective effects of the aerobic exercise.

“These findings further our current understanding of the  neuroprotective effects of aerobic exercise and the role of BDNF,” explained  Michelle Ploughman, PhD, who studies the effects of exercise on the healthy and  diseased brain at Memorial University of Newfoundland, and was not involved  with this study. “People who are at risk of macular degeneration or have early  signs of the disease may be able to slow down the progression of visual  impairment,” she added.

 

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About Post Author

Ralph Turchiano

I have a strong affinity for the sciences which led me to create my sites. My compulsion for the past decade has been reviewing literally every peer-reviewed research article. Which can easily be validated by following my posts. To me, science is where the real news is, as it will mold our destiny beyond that of politics or economics. 😉 Please feel free to e-mail: 161803p314159@gmail.com
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