Experts examine causes, treatment and prevention of glaucoma

Mar 04, 2009

Although scientists know progressive degeneration of retinal ganglion cells and their axons is the primary cause of glaucoma, researchers have yet to identify a way to stop or prevent the degeneration.

The challenge to find a solution brought together a panel of 39 scientists to discuss the factors that may contribute to the disease. The report from the Fourth Annual ARVO/Pfizer Ophthalmics Research Institute Conference examined four areas of research into the cause of glaucomatous neurodegeneration and is published in the March 2009 issue of Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology's peer-reviewed journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS).

The World Health Organization estimates that 65 million people worldwide have the disease, which is the second-leading cause of blindness. According to the report by Gülgün Tezel, MD, "The Role of Glia, Mitochondria, and the Immune System in Glaucoma: Fourth Annual ARVO/Pfizer Ophthalmics Research Institute Conference," recent research indicates that a variety of independent events on the cellular level of the eye can interact to contribute to glaucoma.

One conference session addressed the function of glial cells, which play many roles in support of neurons throughout the body, including those in the visual system. When glaucoma stress conditions appear, glial cells may not be able to adequately support neurons or perform their other functions, especially in older patients.

In another session, researchers discussed problems related to mitochondria, which provide energy to neurons and may prove to be a pathway to prevent neural degeneration in glaucoma patients.

"Targeting mitochondrial events using a specific chemical inhibitor or genetic manipulation appears to be a logical approach for neuroprotection," the report stated.

A discussion on immune response and its effect on glaucoma suggested that the response may initially slow the degeneration of the critical neurons, but the immunity protection itself may lead to problems if not properly controlled. The session called for more study about whether immune activity creates or worsens the neuron degeneration in glaucoma.

The conference concluded with a call for more research on how these factors interact, and asked participants to search for a better understanding of the precise cellular mechanisms related to glaucoma to help find treatments that manipulate the immune system into repairing neural tissue and improving the outlook for those susceptible to glaucoma.

Source: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology

Explore further: Research gives new insights into rare disease of the inner ear

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Thyroid disease risk varies among blacks, Asians, and whites

12 hours ago

An analysis that included active military personnel finds that the rate of the thyroid disorder Graves disease is more common among blacks and Asian/Pacific Islanders compared with whites, according to a study in the April ...

The key to easy asthma diagnosis is in the blood

14 hours ago

Using just a single drop of blood, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers has developed a faster, cheaper and more accurate tool for diagnosing even mild cases of asthma.

Younger adults hit hardest this flu season

16 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The H1N1 flu was the predominant influenza strain in the United States this year, but it packed a lot less punch than in 2009 when it caused a worldwide pandemic, health officials report.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Wireless industry makes anti-theft commitment

A trade group for wireless providers said Tuesday that the biggest mobile device manufacturers and carriers will soon put anti-theft tools on the gadgets to try to deter rampant smartphone theft.