Despite what you might have been told, we've known for some time that neurogenesis (the growth of new neurons in the brain) can occur in the hippocampus of the brain, which plays a critical role in diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia and influences emotional behavior and cognition. Researchers have also found that patients with higher BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) levels have a decreased risk of developing neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. This was attributed to the critical role that BDNF plays in stimulating the growth neurons in the central nervous system (CNS).
You might be wondering why we're talking about the brain when we were supposed to be discussing eye health, but by expanding on the findings from the brain, researchers began to explore where else the regeneration of neurons could take place. A logical starting point was the eyes because the eyes are a part of the central nervous system and actually grow from the brain during fetal development. So what did researchers find?
The eyes have cells that can regenerate too.
How do we know this? Researchers found that cells in the eyes—specifically retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which are responsible for transmitting information from the eyes to the brain—are capable of regeneration, too. This is groundbreaking.