NYU Langone-led Preclinical Research Reveals Citicoline Restores Optic Nerve Signals & May Combat Glaucoma-Led Blindness

NYU Langone-led Preclinical Research Reveals Citicoline Restores Optic Nerve Signals & May Combat Glaucoma-Led Blindness

Important glaucoma-based research led by investigators at NYU Grossman School of Medicine reveals that a chemical known to protect nerve cells actually slows down the leading cause of irreversible blindness, that is glaucoma. This new research reveals that ingesting the compound citicoline actually restores optic nerve (neural) signals between the brain and eye to near-normal levels in rat based preclinical research. Although it’s produced naturally in the brain, citicoline is also available commercially and is a major source of choline, a building block in the membranes that line nerve cells and apparently enhance nerve cell communication. The study results, published online April 13 in the journal Neurotherapeutics, confirms past findings that elevated eye pressure supports nerve damage in glaucoma but also reveals citicoline addresses vision loss in rats without reducing fluid pressure in the eye, reports NYU Langone Health NewsHub.

The Condition

Over 3 million people in the United States alone struggle with glaucoma, however only about half of them are aware they are actually afflicted with the condition. Over 120,000 people go blind due to this disease annually. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates this figure to be over 60 million people worldwide.

Previous Research

Previous research in this field reveals that humans and rodents with glaucoma have lower than normal levels of choline in the brain. This NYU Langone led study connecting the effectiveness of choline supplements as a therapy for glaucoma or for that matter why those with glaucoma have lower choline levels.

The Study Results

According to one of the investigators and study senior author Kevin C. Chan, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at NYU Langone, “Our study suggests that citicoline protects against glaucoma through a mechanism different from that of standard treatments that reduce fluid pressure.” Chan continued, “Since glaucoma interrupts the connection between the brain and eye, we hope to strengthen it with new types of therapies.” Overall, this study contributes to the understanding of the condition—how it forms and progresses and as reported in the NYU Langone Health NewsHub entry as well to evidence that citicoline could possibly challenge the disease.

The study showed that for rats with mildly elevated eye pressure, the tissues that connect the eye and brain, including the optic nerve, decayed for up to five weeks after the injury occurred. Meanwhile, nerve structure breakdown in the citicoline-treated rodents slowed by as much as 74 percent, which indicated that the chemical had protective effects on nerve cells, say the authors.

Study Funding

  • National Institutes of Health
  • Liesegang Fellowship
  • Research to Prevent Blindness/Stavros Niarchos Foundation International Research Collaborators Award
  • Unrestricted Grant from Research to Prevent Blindness to NYU Langone Health’s Department of Ophthalmology

Cautionary Note

Not enough is known yet to turn to citicoline supplements for the treatment of glaucoma in humans: commercial therapies are not proven effective in clinical trials. 

Lead Research/Investigator

Kevin C. Chan, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at NYU Langone, director of the Neuroimaging and Visual Science Laboratory, NYU Langone

Note other researchers from NYU Langone were involved, such as from the University of Pittsburgh and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Call to Action: Researchers will investigate the origin of choline decline in people with glaucoma and explore how citicoline works to repair optimal damage.


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