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Researchers See New Hope for Blindness

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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

CBS St. Louis (con't)

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) - A discovery by St. Louis-area researchers might shed new light on blindness.

Researchers at Washington University may have found the reason that African Americans are more likely to contract glaucoma, and a much higher risk of going blind from the disease.

Researchers found that the oxygen levels in the eyes of African Americans with glaucoma are significantly higher than those in caucasian patients. Lead Researcher Dr. Carla Siegfried suspects that these elevated oxygen levels may damage the drainage system of the eye, resulting in elevated eye pressure, which can lead to blindness.

Siegfried said African Americans seem to use oxygen more efficiently than caucasians.

“We think [the discovery] means that there is an important difference in oxygen metabolism between African Americans and Caucasians,” Siegfried said. “But it’s a basic, basic physiologic difference, and it certainly deserves further study.”

Glaucoma is about six times more common with African Americans as compared to caucasians, and is roughly 16 times more likely to cause blindness among African Americans. Siegfried said the new discovery could lead to better treatment of glaucoma.

“If there were some way to absorb that extra oxygen, perhaps that would be another treatment,” Siegfried said. “Another pathway that we’re going to look at is non-invasive measurement of oxygen consumption with a contact lens model, where we look at the diffusion of oxygen across the cornea and how much oxygen is being consumed.”

Copyright KMOX Radio.

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