Moderate exercise may help to prevent the degeneration of nerve cells in the retina, according to a new study. The findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that aerobic exercise, such as walking or running, may produce a protective effect for cells and could potentially be effective for patients at risk of conditions such as AMD (age-related macular degeneration).
Researchers at Emory University in the US exercised mice on a treadmill before subjecting them to bright light, which damaged their retina. The active mice trained for an hour a day, for two weeks before and after the procedure. The researchers found that the active mice retained a higher proportion of functional photoreceptors and retinal nerve cells compared with the mice which did not undergo the treadmill training.
The retinal cells of the active mice were more responsive to light and produced more of the protein called BDNF. When receptors for this protein were blocked in the active mice the benefits of exercise were cancelled, and they had retinal function comparable to the inactive mice.