Glaucoma Research Gives New Hope for Cure
Despite all the achievements in ophthalmology that are visible to the naked eye, glaucoma remains one of the scourges of the current (and previous) century. Today we talk with Dr. Benjamin about prospects in this regard, but also on other topics that the reader hasn’t even heard about.
What’s dangerous about glaucoma? Our people know much more about cataracts.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually take your vision without warning. And you need to keep in mind that in its early stages there may not be any symptoms at all! Half the people with glaucoma don’t even suspect it. The danger, though, is that glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness.
How many people suffer from it?
At least 80 million people. Looking ahead, I’ll say that right now there’s no cure, but that won’t always be the case. Some recent breakthroughs in Berkeley and Toronto give us hope, although I shouldn’t call it a breakthrough right away… more like a glimmer of hope. The most optimistic experts, though, believe it is a step forward.
We’ll come back to this. First, a few words about glaucoma.
Glaucoma is essentially a defect in the irrigation of the eye, damaging the optic nerve, and with it vision. We have already talked about this in more detail, so I would refer readers to our previous conversations.
Back to the breakthroughs…
It’s been found (so far only in rats) that lipid mediators called lipoxins, which are produced from star-shaped cells (astrocytes), stop the degeneration of ganglion cells in the retinas of animals with glaucoma. Yes, even rats and mice can get glaucoma. By ganglion cells, we mean the neurons of the retina and optic nerve, which receive information from the photoreceptors. I won’t bore you with details that are only understood by specialists. The main thing is that these lipoxin molecules play a significant role in the protection of these neurons, and even have the potential to prevent cell death.
It wasn’t suspected it had this role before?
For decades, pharmaceutical companies have been working on drugs that protect nerve cells – for glaucoma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ALS, and the like. And of all these ailments associated with the degeneration of cells, glaucoma occurs most often. Lipoxins have long been known for their anti-inflammatory effect, but no one had previously considered them a protective agent.
What do doctors currently do for glaucoma?
Treatment consists of reducing eye pressure, and we at BEI do everything that modern ophthalmology makes possible, in that regard. Medication or surgery can slow or even prevent further loss of vision. It used to be thought that the main reason for damage to the nerve was caused by high intraocular pressure, and although this is a risk factor, we now know that there are other factors, since people with normal pressure sometimes have glaucoma, as well. There is no way to stop the process, though, and it remains irreversible.
Are the authors of the study optimistic?
The believe they are close to a solution with help from the aforementioned (and natural) lipoxins. If everything goes as expected, this new tool will be tested on people, not to mention it could help with the treatment of other, incurable diseases. And then if it’s approved by the FDA, BEI will be on the forefront, as always.