Research to Prevent Blindness

RPB Supports World Glaucoma Day 2009

As a major contributor to the comprehensive effort to treat, prevent and cure glaucoma, Research to Prevent Blindness is joining with institutions and organizations worldwide to raise awareness about the need to be tested for glaucoma if you are in any of the major risk factor groups: everyone over age 60; African Americans over age 40; and people with a family history of the disease. (Read more about glaucoma risk factors.)

In the past four years alone, RPB-funded scientists have published 373 papers on glaucoma research.  They have reported discoveries in understanding the cellular and genetic aspects of glaucoma, in testing new treatments, in establishing guidelines for treatment options and in understanding glaucoma's effect on quality of life in order to inform personal choices for effective care.

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Last year, 36 RPB grantee institutions were working on basic science connected to glaucoma and 32 were conducting clinical investigations:

  • A team of RPB researchers advanced a significant piece of the puzzle of restoring vision.  Some eye diseases, including glaucoma, damage the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that make up the optic nerve.  While other investigators are pursuing the creation of replacement RGCs from stem cells, these researchers are identifying ways to integrate the new cells into the eye's light processing circuitry.
  • Using a process called RNA interference RPB scientists have established a potential breakthrough treatment for reducing elevated pressure in the eye (IOP), a common cause of glaucoma. By injecting molecules called short interfering RNAs directly into tissue known as the trabecular meshwork, researchers have been able to silence the action of disease-relevant genes.RNA interference also seems to be effective in regulating genes associated with another important risk factor for glaucoma: the use of steroids to treat other conditions, which is known to cause elevated IOP.
  • Elevated pressure in the eye can develop when the fluid produced within the eye, called vitreous humor, is obstructed as it drains through tissue the trabecular meshwork.  RPB investigators are using Spectral Domain Optical Coherence Tomography, a new high definition and high speed imaging technique, to study the drainage channels in different types of glaucoma, and also to study retinal tissue loss to detect early glaucoma in people at risk.  The same group of investigators developed a prototype of a miniaturized, remote eye pressure measuring device, which may someday allow home monitoring of eye pressure similar to home glucose monitoring for diabetes.
  • Still other researchers are working with RPB grants to promote optic nerve regeneration, to study changes in trabecular meshwork gene expression about a decade before risk of the disease starts going up, and to determine if abnormal blood flow is an important factor in causing glaucomatous optic nerve damage.

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