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      The retina as a window to the brain—from eye research to CNS disorders

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      Nature Reviews Neurology

      Springer Science and Business Media LLC

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          Abstract

          Philosophers defined the eye as a window to the soul long before scientists addressed this cliché to determine its scientific basis and clinical relevance. Anatomically and developmentally, the retina is known as an extension of the CNS; it consists of retinal ganglion cells, the axons of which form the optic nerve, whose fibres are, in effect, CNS axons. The eye has unique physical structures and a local array of surface molecules and cytokines, and is host to specialized immune responses similar to those in the brain and spinal cord. Several well-defined neurodegenerative conditions that affect the brain and spinal cord have manifestations in the eye, and ocular symptoms often precede conventional diagnosis of such CNS disorders. Furthermore, various eye-specific pathologies share characteristics of other CNS pathologies. In this Review, we summarize data that support examination of the eye as a noninvasive approach to the diagnosis of select CNS diseases, and the use of the eye as a valuable model to study the CNS. Translation of eye research to CNS disease, and deciphering the role of immune cells in these two systems, could improve our understanding and, potentially, the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.

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          Most cited references 127

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          Immunization with amyloid-beta attenuates Alzheimer-disease-like pathology in the PDAPP mouse.

          Amyloid-beta peptide (Abeta) seems to have a central role in the neuropathology of Alzheimer's disease (AD). Familial forms of the disease have been linked to mutations in the amyloid precursor protein (APP) and the presenilin genes. Disease-linked mutations in these genes result in increased production of the 42-amino-acid form of the peptide (Abeta42), which is the predominant form found in the amyloid plaques of Alzheimer's disease. The PDAPP transgenic mouse, which overexpresses mutant human APP (in which the amino acid at position 717 is phenylalanine instead of the normal valine), progressively develops many of the neuropathological hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease in an age- and brain-region-dependent manner. In the present study, transgenic animals were immunized with Abeta42, either before the onset of AD-type neuropathologies (at 6 weeks of age) or at an older age (11 months), when amyloid-beta deposition and several of the subsequent neuropathological changes were well established. We report that immunization of the young animals essentially prevented the development of beta-amyloid-plaque formation, neuritic dystrophy and astrogliosis. Treatment of the older animals also markedly reduced the extent and progression of these AD-like neuropathologies. Our results raise the possibility that immunization with amyloid-beta may be effective in preventing and treating Alzheimer's disease.
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            The amyloid hypothesis of Alzheimer's disease: progress and problems on the road to therapeutics.

             D. Selkoe,  John Hardy (2002)
            It has been more than 10 years since it was first proposed that the neurodegeneration in Alzheimer's disease (AD) may be caused by deposition of amyloid beta-peptide (Abeta) in plaques in brain tissue. According to the amyloid hypothesis, accumulation of Abeta in the brain is the primary influence driving AD pathogenesis. The rest of the disease process, including formation of neurofibrillary tangles containing tau protein, is proposed to result from an imbalance between Abeta production and Abeta clearance.
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              Drusen associated with aging and age-related macular degeneration contain proteins common to extracellular deposits associated with atherosclerosis, elastosis, amyloidosis, and dense deposit disease.

              Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a blinding disorder that compromises central vision, is characterized by the accumulation of extracellular deposits, termed drusen, between the retinal pigmented epithelium and the choroid. Recent studies in this laboratory revealed that vitronectin is a major component of drusen. Because vitronectin is also a constituent of abnormal deposits associated with a variety of diseases, drusen from human donor eyes were examined for compositional similarities with other extracellular disease deposits. Thirty-four antibodies to 29 different proteins or protein complexes were tested for immunoreactivity with hard and soft drusen phenotypes. These analyses provide a partial profile of the molecular composition of drusen. Serum amyloid P component, apolipoprotein E, immunoglobulin light chains, Factor X, and complement proteins (C5 and C5b-9 complex) were identified in all drusen phenotypes. Transcripts encoding some of these molecules were also found to be synthesized by the retina, retinal pigmented epithelium, and/or choroid. The compositional similarity between drusen and other disease deposits may be significant in view of the recently established correlation between AMD and atherosclerosis. This study suggests that similar pathways may be involved in the etiologies of AMD and other age-related diseases.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Reviews Neurology
                Nat Rev Neurol
                Springer Science and Business Media LLC
                1759-4758
                1759-4766
                January 2013
                November 20 2012
                January 2013
                : 9
                : 1
                : 44-53
                Article
                10.1038/nrneurol.2012.227
                23165340
                © 2013

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