A Brighter Outlook for Glaucoma Patients


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Glaucoma is a disease caused by pressure within the eye. Over time, it can lead to vision loss or even blindness. In the U.S., about three million people are affected by it. There is no cure, but researchers are working to develop a new therapy that could give people with glaucoma a better outlook.

With most cases of glaucoma, a buildup of fluid causes pressure within the eye. As that pressure increases, it affects the optic nerve at the back of the eye.

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at IU School of Medicine, Tasneem Putiwala Sharma, PhD explains, “And so, basically, you kind of see peripheral vision loss and you start getting tunnel vision.”

(Read Full Interview)

Treatment involves medications or surgery. But that only slows the progression – it doesn’t halt or reverse it. Sharma and her team are trying to change that.

“But the root cause is these neurons are dying. So, how do we protect them?,” Sharma asks.

Her research focuses on two new approaches to treating glaucoma. First, she’s testing a drug that would protect the neurons in the early stages of the disease. Second, she’s also using innovative techniques to look at options for later stages of the disease. In her research, donated human eyes are placed in a one-of-a-kind model in their lab. It simulates pressure in the eye so they can test different therapies. One involves creating stem cells in the lab and transplanting them into the eye to see if the neurons can be replaced.

Sharma says, “If they’re still progressing and there is a lot of vision loss happening, maybe, on the periphery, we could go in and do that and say, you know, ‘That could help you and protect you, long-term.’”

New research that could bring new hope to people battling glaucoma. Sharma received a two million dollar grant from the national eye institute to fund her research. She’s hopeful her work will lead to new clinical trials for glaucoma patients.

Contributors to this news report include: Lindsay Dailey, Producer; Kyle Fisher, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:        MB #5394

BACKGROUND: Glaucoma is a general term used to describe a group of eye disorders that damage your optic nerve. It’s the most common form of optic nerve damage leading to vision loss. In most cases, fluid builds up in the front part of the eye, increasing pressure and causing damage to the optic nerve. This pressure is called intraocular pressure (IOP) or eye pressure. Even people with normal eye pressure can get glaucoma. If left untreated or poorly managed, glaucoma can cause permanent and irreversible vision loss and blindness. Usually, it affects both eyes, with one eye being more severely affected initially. It is a common age-related eye issue that affects around 3 million Americans. It is the second leading cause of blindness globally after cataracts.

(Source: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4212-glaucoma)

DIAGNOSING: A way to diagnose glaucoma is through a comprehensive eye examination. A glaucoma screening that only measures eye pressure is insufficient to detect glaucoma. During a glaucoma exam, your ophthalmologist will check your eye pressure, inspect your eye’s drainage angle, and perform additional tests to determine if there are any issues. Glaucoma usually does not show any symptoms in its early stages. In fact, approximately half of the people with glaucoma are unaware of their condition. Having regular eye exams can help your ophthalmologist find this disease before you lose vision. Your ophthalmologist can tell you how often you should be examined.

(Source: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-glaucoma#diagnosis)

TREATMENT: Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine are using a novel approach to hopefully develop a new therapy for glaucoma, a complex disease that eventually leads to blindness, thanks to a new five-year, $2 million R01 grant from the National Eye Institute. The research is being led by Tasneem Sharma, PhD, who is an assistant professor of ophthalmology. The project, named “Therapeutic Intervention to Target Human Glaucoma Pathogenesis,” aims to develop a new glaucoma therapeutic by testing human neurons and a regenerative therapy to rescue visual neurons from dying preclinically in human eyes under glaucoma conditions. This combination has never been used before. “This grant will be instrumental in spearheading our research on validating an innovative therapeutic strategy for glaucoma. Our powerful tools and valuable stem cell resources will have enormous potential for breakthrough discovery. It will offer a foundation for deciphering survival and regeneration of RGCs due to glaucomatous neurodegeneration.” Sharma said.

(Source: https://medicine.iu.edu/news/2024/01/glaucoma-treatment-research-grant)


Annie Troutman                      Christina Griffiths

anntrout@iu.edu                     griffchm@iu.edu

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Tasneem Putliwala Sharma, PhD, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology

Read the entire Q&A