Glaucoma research

Researchers are trying to identify various tests, procedures and medications that may provide health care professionals with more information regarding the causes, treatment and prevention of glaucoma.

Researchers are currently attempting to develop glaucoma treatments that have to be used less often. The current medications for glaucoma have to be used several times a day. This complex dosing schedule discourages patients from using their medication correctly; decreasing the benefits they should obtain from the medication. Once a week preparations are currently being developed to simplify the dosing schedule for the treatment of glaucoma.

Currently, the New York Glaucoma Research Institute has several ongoing studies. The Institute is reviewing the use of ultrasound biomicroscopy (UBM), a procedure that researchers anticipate will provide for a more accurate diagnosis of glaucoma. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is another procedure being studied. This procedure is being investigated to aid health care professionals to gain a better understanding of the development of glaucoma, as well as allow for earlier detection of the disease. Other areas of research include confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy and tissue culture, which will evaluate the optic nerve and provide insight into how to strengthen the optic nerve once affected by glaucoma.

There is a new interest in research targeting stem cell therapies to treat glaucoma. Researchers now believe that there is a potential for using stem cells as a renewable source of replacement cells and tissue to treat glaucoma. It is believed that adult stem cells will work by replacing retinal ganglion cells, the cells that die in glaucoma.

Memantine (Namenda), a medication that has been used to treat Parkinson's disease and dementia, and Glatiramer (Copaxone), a medication used in patients with multiple sclerosis, are being considered for glaucoma treatment by researchers. Researchers believe Namenda and Copaxone may be able to protect the optic nerve from too much glutamate. Without glutamate, calcium cannot enter the nerve cell. Therefore, the nerve cells are protected from too much calcium, which can be toxic to the cell. The greatest advantage of Namenda and Copaxone is that they are able to accomplish this without interfering with the normal function of the cell. This ability to protect the cell from calcium and still allow normal cell function may someday prove to throw memantine and copaxone into first line status for the treatment of glaucoma. At this time, no definitive studies have been done to assess the effectiveness and safety of these medications in glaucoma patients.

A new type of drug is being researched that could help stop or slow vision loss from glaucoma called aminoguanidine. Aminoguanidine is a new type of drug that is being developed is one that curbes the action of NOS-2, an enzyme that makes nitric oxide. This type of drug has been shown in animals to slow down and possibly prevent the loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the crucial nerve cells so important to sight.