Research explores why aging predisposes eye to glaucoma

March 15, 2010

A research team in Australia has identified a possible mechanism by which aging predisposes the eye to glaucoma.

Melbourne, Australia-A research team in Australia has identified a possible mechanism through which aging predisposes the eye to glaucoma. Conducting tests in an animal model, investigators found that old mice responded much worse to acute IOP challenge than younger mice.

This suggests that aging increases retina and optic nerve vulnerability to IOP elevation and associated oxidative stress, said George Y.X. Kong, MD, a PhD candidate at the Centre for Eye Research Australia at the University of Melbourne. Dr. Kong conducts research in the lab of Jonathan G. Crowston, MD, PhD, who in a related study found that the aging effect in mice can be modified with dietary alterations. Dr. Crowston is professor and director of glaucoma research at the Centre for Eye Research Australia in Melbourne.

It is well established that glaucoma increases in incidence and prevalence with age, but the pathophysiology underlying this fact is poorly understood. The underlying hypothesis is that the central nervous system, specifically the neurons, becomes more vulnerable to injury as we age. The team of investigators in Dr. Crowston's lab evaluated this hypothesis using established models for insulting the optic nerve in rodents to see whether age makes a difference in how they respond to elevated IOP.

"We don't think this is a glaucoma model, but it's a robust way of measuring how resilient the inner retina is to IOP elevation, which induces oxidative stress," Dr. Crowston said.