Researchers set sights on glaucoma vision loss

With Baby Boomers not getting any younger (last we checked) glaucoma is likely to be one of many age-related diseases receiving increased scrutiny. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals some good news on that front. A team of researchers from the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore says it has pinpointed the precise anatomical location where vision loss occurs in glaucoma.

According to a news release from the institute, at a specific location within the optic nerve head, there is a unique class of cells called astrocytes that look like they play a critical role in the visual blinding that occurs in glaucoma. Also, the researchers found abnormal forms of a protein called gamma synuclein that is similar to abnormal forms of alpha synuclein, a related protein known for its key role in cell loss in Parkinson's disease. The findings suggest that a biological process similar to Parkinson's unfolds in glaucoma at the specific anatomical location pinpointed in this study.

"These findings are very exciting because they give us several novel targets for future interventions," Dr. Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, senior study author and a research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute, said in a news release. "I believe these findings put us on the cusp of discovering a treatment for glaucoma that may also have relevance for a number of other neurodegenerative diseases."

- read the release