A new study regarding nerve regeneration could have positive implications for individuals with glaucoma. Andrew Huberman, Ph.D., associate professor of neurobiology at Stanford University, conditioned injured optic nerve cells in blind mice and caused the cells to regenerate. The mice regained partial eyesight, which gives researchers hope for new treatments.
Dr. Huberman and his team used a combined approach that used both genetic and visual stimulation to promote neural activity. They activated the common growth mechanism in cells called the mTOR signaling pathway in the severed retinal ganglions of mice, and they exposed the eyes to high-contrast oscillating black-and-white images. The research team found that this treatment could trigger injured retinal cells to regrow optic nerve fibers along damaged pathways to the brain and restore a portion of the mice’s eyesight.
The research team hopes that this type of ocular repair will lead to new treatments for visual impairment and nerogenerative diseases. This could mean hope for millions of glaucoma sufferers worldwide. The Glaucoma Research Foundation aims to develop new treatments for major eye diseases, including glaucoma, by 2022. Thomas M. Brunner, President and CEO of the Glaucoma Research Foundation, finds the results of the study quite encouraging. If vision in animals can be restored, maybe nerve cells in humans can be reconnected as well. He commented, “The research shows that there may be promise for people, where we think vision is permanently gone, to restore it.”
Currently, there is no cure for glaucoma, so doctors and researchers have focused most of their energies toward prevention. Andrew Iwach, M.D., executive director of the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco and a professor of ophthalmology at UC San Francisco, said, “This may help us open another area of exploration for research, not only to play defense and protect what’s left, but also go on the offense to help patients” (Source: Glaucoma.org).