UNMC Glaucoma Research Could Lead to Changes in Diagnosis and Treatment

Sep 12, 2017

A UNMC research team is excited about their glaucoma research results. 

The lead investigator, Ophthalmology Professor Iqbal Ahmad, says their discoveries could lead to earlier diagnosis of the disease.  He says glaucoma affects roughly three million people in the US – about half of whom do not know they have it – and roughly 60 million people worldwide.  And it is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness.

Ahmad say because the retinal ganglion cells deteriorate with age in people with glaucoma, they hypothesized that these cells may have developmental abnormalities. To test this, they compared retinal ganglion cells grown in the lab from blood cells of normal donors with those from donors with glaucoma. 

“And when we compared the cells from the patients and the cells that we obtained from the healthy donor, we started findings differences.  Their development was abnormal, their morphological features -- they looked very different from each other -- and when we tested their function, they also tested in an abnormal way compared to the healthy donor.”  

In addition to earlier diagnosis, Ahmad say their results could accelerate the development of drugs to treat the defective retinal cells.  He says it is also possible that one day retinal ganglion cells from stem cells may be able to replace the degenerating cells.

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