New Treatment for Glaucoma Shows Promise in Laboratory (2007-08-01)
Iowa State University researchers have developed a new technique that successfully treated rats for blindness caused by glaucoma, the university announced Wednesday.
Their experimental treatment will be used on canine patients in the next year. If successful, it is expected to move to human trials. People with elevated intraocular pressure are at greatest risk for developing glaucoma.
The researchers previously determined that animals with glaucoma increase production of proteins with neuron-protective capabilities (neurotrophins) in an attempt to shield against blindness. So, they imitated that process in the laboratory, modifying bone marrow-derived stem cells to produce the neurotrophin. Then they transplanted the cells into the glaucomatous eyes.
A sophisticated computerized analysis of noninvasive measurements of optic nerve function and the retina's electrical activity showed dramatic improvement in the rats' visual functions after the procedure.
"One of the really unique aspects of this approach is that we can isolate these stem cells from the same individual being treated," Donald Sakaguchi, the neuroscientist in the study said. "It eliminates the ethical issues associated with embryonic stem cells, and the immunological problems of graft rejection."
Sinisa Grozdanic, a veterinary ophthalmologist involved in the trial said the "results were phenomenal." So, the Iowa State team intends to use the technique on dogs as soon as possible.
"Dogs suffer many of the same diseases people do and there's a lot of physiological similarity in their eyes and ours," Grozdanic said. "Hopefully in a few years, we'll be able to say it's working in humans."