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Vitamin B3 could treat glaucoma

A humble vitamin B3 supplement could be the key to treating glaucoma, new research has found.

Melbourne’s Centre for Eye Research Australia is in the midst of conducting a world-first human trial that uses vitamin B3 to treat the disease of the optic nerve.

Research fellow Dr Flora Hui said the six-month clinical trial aimed to use a high dosage of the vitamin to support existing glaucoma therapies such as daily eye drops.

“Imagine your car’s engine is running a bit rough and as a result, the car doesn’t drive smoothly. If you top up the engine with oil, the car runs better, even though you haven’t fixed the underlying problem,” Dr Hui said.

“Our study hopes to confirm that vitamin B3 can protect nerve cells from dying, in a similar way that adding oil to a faulty car engine can still allow it to run more smoothly.”

CERA managing director and research leader Jonathan Crowston said glaucoma affected 60 million people worldwide.

“Glaucoma currently has no cure and vision loss is generally thought to be irreversible,” he said.

“We have recently discovered that in the early stages after an injury, visual function can in fact recover, but that the ability to recover diminishes with increasing age.

“We have developed clinical tests that now allow us to look for visual recovery in the clinic and are beginning to look at treatment that could boost recovery. Our premise is that if you can improve optic nerve recovery after an injury that we can reduce the risk of glaucoma progressing.”

In 2017, a US research team led by JAX Laboratories’ Professor Simon John and Dr Pete Williams found that vitamin B3 given to glaucoma-prone mice prevented optic nerve degeneration and glaucoma. This treatment also reversed the negative effects of ageing in the mouses eyes.

“We were very excited by these findings and are now looking at the effect of vitamin B3 in glaucoma patients,” Crowston said.

The news coincides with World Glaucoma Week (March 11 to 17).

CERA is recruiting more patients for the study. To volunteer click here.

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