Healthy, Happy Living May Slow Retinal Degeneration

April 13, 2012

Italian researchers have shown that mice with retinitis pigmemtosa raised in an enriched environment for one year had slower retinal degeneration than mice reared in a typical laboratory setting. The mice living in the enriched conditions had twice as many cone cells, the cells that provide central, color and detailed vision, and the cones were healthier. The scientists believe that these study results can be translated to humans.

Environmental enrichment for the mice included larger cages, running wheels, nesting material and companionship from “helper” female mice in addition to their biological mothers. The mice were also given toys that were changed twice a week to stimulate curiosity and exploration.

The investigators believe that exercise, stimulation, social activity and reduction in stress lead to an increase in the production of neurotrophic factors, proteins that keep cells of the brain, nervous system and retina healthy.

The research team included Drs. Ilaria Barone and Enrica Strettoi of the Italian National Research Council, CNR-Neuroscience Institute, Pisa, Italy; and Elena Novelli of the GB-Bietti Foundation for Ophthalmology, Rome, Italy.

They will present a poster on their findings at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Ft. Lauderdale on Monday May 7, 2012, from 3:45 to 5:30 p.m.