Glaucoma is challenging to diagnose as well as treat. Glaucoma is not just one disease; rather, it is an entire family of diseases that damages the optic nerve. Elevated intraocular pressure can create stress on the optic nerve and can progressively interrupt the transmission of signals between the eyes and the brain.
In most cases, glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms or pain in the early stages, yet it is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the United States. There is no cure for glaucoma, and glaucoma-related vision loss is irreversible. January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, so we would like to share some of the latest research on the future of glaucoma treatment.
How Stem Cells May Advance Glaucoma Treatment
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the potential to develop into specialized tissues. They have been used for years to help treat blood and bone marrow diseases, blood cancers and immune disorders, but new studies suggest that stem cell therapy may be a possible treatment for glaucoma. Stem cells may help protect the optic nerve from further damage and delay the progression of vision loss.
Some researchers also think that stem cells could replace degenerated eye tissue caused by glaucoma. Two specific tissues are the trabecular meshwork, which is responsible for eye drainage and the regulation of inner eye pressure, and the optic nerve. This is a promising development because currently, the most effective glaucoma treatments can only delay the progression of the disease.
Stem cell treatment for glaucoma is still in the early stages, and there are many necessary qualifications. Researchers must reliably differentiate stem cells into normal ocular tissues, safely implant them correctly and establish a working connection between the new cells and the brain. It is also important that implanted stem cells remain stable and do not cause dangerous side effects (Source: Glaucoma Research Foundation).