Scientists Identify Key Pathways to Treat Blindness
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness, affecting 60 million people worldwide. Very little is known about the basis of the disease, but a new study from Northwestern Medicine may be leading the way to a breakthrough eye drop treatment.
Scientists led by Susan Quaggin, MD, a nephrologist and director of the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, successfully identified building blocks in a mouse model. While the causes of glaucoma are still poorly understood, the discovery of these key pathways is a breakthrough in revealing the mechanisms of the disease.
Blindness from glaucoma is associated with clogged fluid in the anterior eye chamber that can destroy retinal cells and the optic nerve. The build up is connected to defective vessels called Schlemm’s canals. The Northwestern study identified “lock and key” proteins that signal a critical chemical pathway and, when either is missing, prevent the production of Schlemm’s canals for proper drainage and lead to glaucoma.
With this new knowledge, the Northwestern Medicine scientists are developing eye drops to amplify the signaling pathway and grow bigger Schlemm’s canals. Dr. Quaggin and her team hope to lower the pressure in the eye by draining clogged fluid through the new canals, potentially offering a cure for glaucoma.