Study investigates role of Vitamin B3 in glaucoma treatment

Could a high dose of a humble vitamin support existing glaucoma therapies?


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(Update July 2020: Read about the results of this study here.)


Like oil that keeps a car engine running smoothly, CERA research is investigating whether vitamin B3 could help protect nerve cells against damage in glaucoma.

Researcher Dr Flora Hui has been at the forefront of a world-first clinical trial which has examined the impact of giving patients a high dose of daily vitamin B3 in addition to their usual treatment to lower eye pressure.

Results of the highly anticipated study will be released this year.

The study, initiated by our former Managing Director Professor Jonathan Crowston and continued in partnership with him in his new role in Singapore, aimed to determine if therapeutic use of a high dose of the vitamin could be used to support existing therapies such as daily eye drops, or in severe cases, surgery.

“Our research has investigated if there is a way to protect nerve cells from further damage in glaucoma and also whether this treatment can support sick nerve cells to help them work better,’’ says Dr Hui.

“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.”

Glaucoma leads to vision loss when cells in the retina and optic nerve are damaged and stop functioning.

Current treatments aim to lower pressure rather than protecting or repairing cell damage. Earlier pre-clinical research in the US showed that vitamin B3 could prevent optic nerve degeneration – and the CERA research is the first time this approach has been trialled in humans.

“Recent research has shown that in the early stages after injury to nerve cells, visual function can recover but that this ability diminished with age,’’ she says.

“We are now investigating treatments that could boost this recovery.’’

The research is generously supported by the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia, Jack Brockhoff Foundation, Marian and EH Flack Trust, Jean Miller Foundation and Connie and Craig Kimberley Fund.

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