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Alzheimer's drugs could save sight

Drugs developed to treat those suffering from Alzheimer's disease may also prevent people from going blind, it has been claimed.

Scientists from University College London have discovered that proteins associated with the condition are also linked to glaucoma.

It is now hoped that the Alzheimer's drugs could be used to treat the eye disorder, which affects more than 500,000 people in the UK.

The new research shows that a brain protein associated with Alzheimer's also causes glaucoma-type damage to optical nerves.

Researchers spotted the connection after developing a new method of detecting nerve cell damage at the back of the eye after carrying out experiments on rats.

When the animals were treated with a combination of drugs that prevent the build up of beta-amyloid protein, nerve cell death and glaucoma progression was halted.

Dr Francesca Cordeiro, from University College London, who led the Wellcome Trust-funded study, said: "It doesn't restore sight, but it stops them losing vision in the first place. You must remember that to lose vision, 30% of the retinal nerve cells have to be dead.

"Our aim, definitely, is to stop people going blind from this disease."

A pilot patient trial is planned at the end of this year or the start of 2008.

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