Exercise may slow progression of retinal degeneration

February 10, 2014, Society for Neuroscience
Exercise may slow progression of retinal degeneration

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 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 . 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 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 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 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.

Explore further: Research finds protein that prevents light-induced retinal degeneration

More information: "Aerobic Exercise Protects Retinal Function and Structure from Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration." Eric C. Lawson, Moon K. Han, Jana T. Sellers, Micah A. Chrenek, Adam Hanif, Marissa A. Gogniat,Jeffrey H. Boatright, and Machelle T. Pardue. Journal of Neuroscience, February 12, 2014 34(7): pages 2406 –2412. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2062-13.2014

Related Stories

Research finds protein that prevents light-induced retinal degeneration

February 12, 2013
Research led by Minghao Jin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience at the LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans Neuroscience Center of Excellence, has found a protein that protects retinal photoreceptor ...

Loss of anti-aging gene possible culprit in age-related macular degeneration

October 8, 2013
A team of researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) has found that loss of an anti-aging gene induces retinal degeneration in mice and might contribute to age-related macular degeneration, the major cause ...

Gene therapy improves eyesight in people born with an incurable form of blindness

January 15, 2014
A new gene therapy has restored some sight in people born with an inherited, progressive form of blindness. The technique replaces a defective gene in the eye with a normal working copy of the gene using a single injection.

New avenue to treat diabetes-related vision problems

January 22, 2014
Dopamine-restoring drugs already used to treat Parkinson's disease may also be beneficial for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness in adults, researchers have discovered.

Drug reduces brain changes, motor deficits associated with Huntington's disease

November 26, 2013
A drug that acts like a growth-promoting protein in the brain reduces degeneration and motor deficits associated with Huntington's disease in two mouse models of the disorder, according to a study appearing November 27 in ...

Molecule produced during exercise boosts brain health

October 10, 2013
A protein that is increased by endurance exercise has been isolated and given to non-exercising mice, in which it turned on genes that promote brain health and encourage the growth of new nerves involved in learning and memory, ...

Recommended for you

Researchers unravel why people with HIV suffer from more neurologic diseases

August 20, 2018
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which the HIV virus can cause, continue to be one of the world's greatest health problems.

Fluidically linked blood-brain barrier and Organ Chips offer new method for studying effects of drugs on the brain

August 20, 2018
The human brain, with its 100 billion neurons that control every thought, word, and action, is the most complex and delicate organ in the body. Because it needs extra protection from toxins and other harmful substances, the ...

Female mice are immune to cognitive damage from space radiation

August 20, 2018
Humankind still dreams of breaking from the bounds of Earth's atmosphere and venturing to the moon, Mars and beyond. But once astronauts blast past the International Space Station, they become exposed to one of the many dangers ...

Children with brain tumors who undergo radiation less likely to recall recent events

August 20, 2018
Children with certain types of brain tumors who undergo radiation treatment are less likely to recall the specifics of events they experienced after radiation than to remember pre-treatment happenings, according to a Baylor ...

Rogue proteins may underlie some ALS and frontotemporal dementia cases, says study

August 20, 2018
ALS—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—is a neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, slowly robbing its victims of their ability to walk, talk, breathe and swallow. In a cruel twist, ...

Bilingual children who speak native language at home have higher intelligence

August 20, 2018
Children who regularly use their native language at home while growing up in a different country have higher IQs, a new study has shown.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.