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Glaucoma starts as an injury to the brain

New research suggests that blindness from glaucoma starts with an injury in the brain, not the eye.

According to a team, headed by David Calkins, director of research at Vanderbilt University's Eye Institute, the disease - the leading cause of irreversible blindness - shows up first in the brain, not the eye.

The researchers made the discovery after injecting glaucoma-afflicted rodents with a special fluorescent dye that illuminated sections of the middle of the brain where the optic nerve forms its first connections. 

After analysis, it was found that the disease's first signs were not in the retina. Instead, it turned that out the earliest damage was at the other end of the optic nerve, in the mid-brain, which lost its ability to receive information from optic nerve fibers.

The optic nerve is a cable that connects the retina, the light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye, with the brain.

The research was published in the March 1 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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