Neuroregeneration Research Promising for Glaucoma

It is estimated that over 2.2 million Americans have glaucoma but only half of those know they have it. In the U.S., more than 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness.  Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization.- National Institutes of Health
by: Laird Harrison
CORONADO, California — Techniques for regenerating neurons damaged by glaucoma, which have had good results in animals, have improved vision in humans in a small preliminary trial.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, MD, from the University of California at San Diego.
No matter what causes the initial injury to retinal ganglion cells, they can’t regenerate on their own, he explained. However, “there may be a window of opportunity to heal these cells before they die.”

The results of the trial and other advances in neuroregeneration research were presented during a joint symposium of the American Glaucoma Society 2015 Annual Meeting and the North American Neuro-Ophthalmology Society.

Dr Goldberg and others have been exploring ways to stimulate growth in retinal ganglion cells in animals. These include using neurotrophic factors to stimulate regeneration in injured retinal ganglion cells.
And with a kind of gene therapy that blocks factors that limit growth, researchers have achieved long-distance regeneration down the optic nerve, Dr Goldberg reported. “We’re making a lot of progress getting axons to regenerate back to the brain.”
Researchers are also using stem cells to make neurotrophic factors or to replace retinal ganglion cells. Creating new retinal ganglion cells out of stem cells is challenging because the cells must grow dendrites into the inner plexiform layer and axons back to the brain, he said.
After retinal ganglion cells were transplanted from one healthy animal to another, some grew axons to the brain. However, it is not clear how well this approach will work in animals with damaged neurons………..
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Source: Medscape & National Institutes of Health