Glaucoma refers to a family of diseases that damage the optic nerve and cause progressive vision loss. For the first time, researchers have identified specific characteristics of different types of glaucoma using optical coherence tomography (OCT) angiography by examining the disease in its earlier stages. OCT is an advanced imaging system which can actually view the movement of red blood cells in the vessels of the eye without using dye injections.
A research team from the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and Rutgers New Jersey Medical School found that patients with glaucoma have poor blood flow compared to people who do not have glaucoma. Of the 92 people they observed between April and August 2015, all were over 50 years of age and belonged to one of the three groups: primary open-angle or high-pressure glaucoma, normal-tension or low-pressure glaucoma, and no glaucoma. The researchers found that the patients with glaucoma had distinct defects in their blood vessels according to the type of glaucoma they had.
The researchers developed new software that can analyze the images from the OCT angiography to help diagnose the type of glaucoma patients have. Richard Rosen, lead investigator, said, “This is the first time we have been able to identify certain characteristic patterns of blood flow that correspond to different types of glaucoma, which may allow us to identify certain forms of glaucoma in their early stages. The findings could lead to new therapeutic strategies to avoid progressive damage in glaucoma patients, and provide a new metric for monitoring early damage that eventually leads to vision loss.”
On the opposite coast, Jeffrey Goldberg from the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford University, is researching an experimental drug which, when implanted in the eye, could stimulate activity and growth of the optic nerve. The drug works specifically on the retinal ganglion cells in the eyes that carry light signals to the brain. Goldberg suggests that the drug may stop the damage to the retinal ganglion cells or help improve a patient’s existing vision (Source: Medical News Daily).
“It will be an enormous step forward if either of these can be demonstrated,” Goldberg said. “We have no approved treatments that address the degeneration of the [retinal ganglion cells] or their axons, so this is a huge unmet need.”