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Light at the End of the Tunnel for Most Individuals With Low-Vision

Vision loss after damage to the retina, optic nerve or brain is in part reversible, reports a special issue of Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience

January 22, 2020
Amsterdam, NL – Progress in research and technology is giving rise to an optimistic future for compensation and restoration of low vision, according to research in a special issue of Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, published by IOS Press. Seven studies explore different aspects of vision loss after damage to the retina, optic nerve or brain due to diseases such as glaucoma or optic neuropathy. Remarkable progress is being made to treat conditions of partial blindness that have previously been considered irreversible.

“The findings in this special issue of Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience showcase how basic science, clinical care and innovation including drugs and devices are being used to stop cell death and induce regeneration to restore vision,” explained Guest Editor Andrea Antal, PhD, Group Leader at the Institute of Medical Psychology, University of Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany.

In order to restore some vision in patients with partially damaged optic nerve or visual pathway, there are different possibilities, including stem cell therapy, supporting spontaneous regeneration using drugs, visual training and re-activation of hypometabolic neurons, for example by electrical stimulation

In this issue behavioral training and electrical/sensory devices that strengthen residual visual capacities through brain plasticity and restore some vision are also presented and the application possibilities are discussed. “If the retina and/or the optic nerve are completely damaged, then the recovery is not possible. However, with partial damage where there is even a small amount of residual vision still present, almost all patients can achieve some degree of improvement,” Prof. Dr. Antal added.

Neurons in the visual system can become silent because they are either anatomically or physiologically damaged, inhibited by toxic substances or lack of oxygen and glucose supply. From the clinical point of view, damaged cells in the visual system are not always dead, but may be inactive, in a hibernation-like mode, or in a hypometabolic stage. It may be possible to reactivate them through medication, training and/or electrical stimulation.

Contributions to this issue demonstrate that uncovering the mechanisms of action of vision recovery and repair is paving the way for a better understanding of neuroplasticity in the visual sciences. Mechanisms currently under study include the replacement (augmentation) of the lost nervous tissue itself, in particular the retina or optic nerve, by means of axonal regeneration, stem cell transplantation and retinal chip implants (“bionic eye”). Another approach aims to make more efficient use of the remaining brain tissue by “reprogramming” or “reorganizing” nerve cell activities and their connections with the goal of activating residual vision using training and electrical stimulation. These advances impact different visual disorders including typical eye-related diseases such as glaucoma and optic neuropathy, and also more brain-related disorders, such as stroke or brain trauma.

“The topic of low vision is gaining scientific momentum. However, despite remarkable progress in the last few years, this subject deserves more attention. Publication of this dedicated issue is timely and will significantly advance the field, providing a source of inspiration as the basis of progress,” noted Prof. Dr. Antal and Bernhard Sabel, PhD, Professor of Medical Psychology, Otto-v.-Guericke University of Magdeburg, Germany.

The special issue grew out of a series of conferences on “Low Vision and the Brain” (4r-vision.com). These conferences addressed the eye-brain interaction in an interdisciplinary manner that touched on ophthalmology, neurology, neuropsychology, rehabilitation medicine, engineering and pharmacology.

Vision loss is not only an eye problem: the different disorders and the eye-brain interplay should be handled in an interdisciplinary manner. In order to understand and successfully treat vision loss, the interaction of different disciplines including ophthalmology, neurology, neuropsychology, rehabilitation medicine, engineering and pharmacology, is necessary

While many animal experiments have been successful, the results have not been directly transferrable to human studies. The investigators point to the need to further explore other factors related to vision loss. This research has the potential to greatly influence patient care in the future.

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NOTES FOR EDITORS

Low Vision: Rescue, Regeneration, Restoration and Rehabilitation
Guest Editor: Andrea Antal, PhD, Group Leader, Institute of Medical Psychology, University of Magdeburg, Magdeburg, Germany
A special issue of Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, Volume 37, Issue 6 published by IOS Press. This issue is available at: content.iospress.com/journals/restorative-neurology-and-neuroscience/37/6.

Contact
Full text of the articles is available to credentialed journalists upon request. Contact Diana Murray (+1 718-640-5678 or d.murray@iospress.com). Journalists wishing to reach the Guest Editor and/or the authors should contact Dr. Andrea Antal (andrea.antal@med.ovgu.de).

About Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience
An interdisciplinary journal under the editorial leadership of Bernhard Sabel, PhD, Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience (RNN) publishes papers relating the plasticity and response of the nervous system to accidental or experimental injuries and their interventions, transplantation, neurodegenerative disorders and experimental strategies to improve regeneration or functional recovery and rehabilitation. Experimental and clinical research papers adopting fresh conceptual approaches are encouraged. The overriding criteria for publication are novelty, significant experimental or clinical relevance and interest to a multidisciplinary audience. iospress.com/restorative-neurology-and-neuroscience

RNN Editorial Office
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Sabel
Institut für Medizinische Psychologie
Medizinische Fakultät
Otto-v.-Guericke Universität Magdeburg
39120 Magdeburg, Germany
Tel: +49-391-672-1800
E-mail: rnn@med.ovgu.de

About IOS Press
IOS Press is headquartered in Amsterdam with satellite offices in the USA, Germany, India and China and serves the information needs of scientific and medical communities worldwide. IOS Press now publishes more than 80 international peer-reviewed journals and about 75 book titles each year on subjects ranging from computer science, artificial intelligence, and engineering to medicine, neuroscience, and cancer research. iospress.com