Blacksburg (Virginia) [US], February 5 (ANI): Researchers at VTC's Fralin Biomedical Research Institute are investigating potential preventative and treatment methods for optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH), a disorder that causes vision impairment in neonates.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the disorder arises when the optic nerves that convey information from the retina to the brain are undeveloped at birth, resulting in moderate to severe vision loss in children (NIH). It has no recognised cause, and families affected by it have limited medical options.
With support from a four-year, USD 1.56 million grant from the National Eye Institute of the NIH, Virginia Tech scientists, led by principal investigator Konark Mukherjee, will explore whether a prenatal deficiency of an important fatty acid known as arachidonic acid contributes to the disorder.
If so, the discovery could explain why ONH in babies has been associated with factors such as young maternal age and prenatal exposures to smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs, anti-depressants, anticonvulsants, and other agents.
As the research proceeds, Mukherjee will test whether arachidonic acid supplementation improves or prevents ONH in two independent mouse models of the disease.
"Currently, there are no effective medical treatments, but if we are correct, the intervention may be a simple nutritional supplementation for the population at risk," said Mukherjee, whose research seeks to better understand neurodevelopment and provide new insights into childhood illnesses.
Optic nerve hypoplasia accounts for about 15 per cent to 25 per cent of infants with serious vision loss, according to the NIH, and although precise numbers are unavailable, the incidence of the disease seems to be rising. (ANI)