May 23, 2024
Gut Bacteria

Study Suggests Gut Bacteria May Cause Blindness in Inherited Eye Diseases

A recent study indicates that gut bacteria could be a contributing factor to blindness in certain inherited eye diseases, potentially offering a new pathway for treatment with antimicrobials. The research, jointly conducted by experts from UCL and Moorfields, highlights the presence of gut bacteria in damaged areas of the eye associated with a genetic mutation known to lead to blindness.

Published in Cell, the study focuses on the Crumbs homolog 1 (CBR1) gene, crucial for maintaining the blood-retina barrier that regulates the passage of substances in and out of the eye. Mutations in this gene are linked to various inherited eye diseases, including Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

The research team, using mouse models, made a groundbreaking discovery that the CRB1 gene also plays a vital role in controlling the integrity of the lower gastrointestinal tract. When the gene’s expression is compromised due to a mutation, barriers in both the gut and the retina become compromised, allowing harmful bacteria to travel from the gut to the eye, resulting in sight loss.

Remarkably, the study found that administering antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, could prevent sight loss in mice by targeting the bacteria, even without restoring the affected cell barriers in the eye. This novel approach opens up new possibilities for preventing deterioration in CRB1-associated inherited eye diseases, a significant cause of blindness in the UK.

Co-lead author Professor Richard Lee emphasizes the unexpected connection between the gut and the eye revealed in the study, underscoring the potential impact on transforming the treatment landscape for these eye diseases. The researchers plan to conduct further clinical studies to verify the findings in human subjects and explore the broader implications of the gut-eye mechanism in a range of eye conditions.

With the hope of revolutionizing treatments for inherited eye diseases, this study sheds light on the role of gut bacteria in causing blindness and paves the way for novel therapeutic strategies in ophthalmology.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research.
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