Defeating Glaucoma, the “Silent Thief of Sight”
Many of us fear going blind more than having cancer or heart disease. That’s why glaucoma—the leading cause of irreversible blindness, affecting more than 70 million people worldwide—is a major concern as people age. In fact, the World Health Organization recognizes it as one of the most prevalent age-related neurodegenerative disorders today.
There is no cure for glaucoma, and current therapies are inadequate. It is often called the “silent thief of sight” because people who develop it don’t experience noticeable symptoms and may not seek medical help until they have begun to lose their sight—once the retina and optic nerve are already damaged.
Vision loss in glaucoma results from the death of retinal ganglion cells, the neurons that carry visual information from the retina to the brain. High fluid pressure inside the eye is the most significant cause of the disease, but just how this pressure damages retinal ganglion cells is still unknown.
As Canada Research Chair in Glaucoma and Age-Related Neurodegeneration, Dr. Adriana Di Polo aims to better understand what causes the loss of neurons in glaucoma. She and her research team are using a variety of living models of optic nerve damage, including ocular hypertension, in combination with gene therapy, gene silencing, molecular approaches, electrophysiology, and live imaging. Their goal is to identify cellular and molecular pathways that can help retinal ganglion cells survive and regenerate.
Ultimately, Di Polo’s research could lead to new and more effective therapies to restore vision for glaucoma patients.