A new imaging technique can show the deaths of individual cells in people with glaucoma by labelling the cells with fluorescent dye, according to researchers. The approach might eventually be used to diagnosis the disease in its early stages or measure its progression.
"As far as we are aware, this is the first time in humans that individual neuronal cell apoptosis has been visualised in vivo, in real time," wrote Professor Francesca Cordeiro from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology in London, and colleagues. They published their finding in the journal Brain.
This technique, detection of apoptosing retinal cells (DARC), could be useful in the diagnosis of age-related macular degeneration, optic neuritis and Alzheimer's disease, they wrote. Until this study, they had only used it in animal models.
Retinal ganglion cell apoptosis occurs long before symptoms occur in glaucoma, and by then patients may have sustained irreparable damage to their vision. So researchers have long hoped to assess individual cell loss. But until now, no one has figured out how.