The second group of Catalyst for a Cure researchers outline their mission to find biomarkers for the earliest pathologic events in glaucoma onset and progression. The discussed the importance of their project and the benefits of the Catalysts for a Cure research model, pooling together individuals from different institutions providing unique skills and knowledge.
San Francisco-In 2011, Glaucoma Research Foundation expanded its novel initiative to advance glaucoma research through a collaborative approach by bringing together a second Catalyst for a Cure research team.
The charge for the new group is to find biomarkers for the earliest pathologic events in glaucoma onset and progression. At the Catalyst for a Cure benefit gala, the four principal scientists in the second consortium outlined the importance of their project and the benefits of the Catalyst for a Cure research model, pooling together individuals from different institutions providing unique skills and knowledge.
Vivek J. Srinivasan, PhD, University of California, Davis, observed that success in preventing vision loss from glaucoma continues to be hampered by the lack of sensitive and specific tools for disease diagnosis and monitoring. To help solve this problem, Dr. Srinivasan brings his expertise in optical coherence tomography and work with brain imaging in neurodegenerative diseases.
“There are some subjective and structural methods available now for detecting glaucoma and its progression,” said Dr. Srinivasan. “However, our thought is there is loss of metabolism and function that can be identified before these other changes occur.”
Alfredo Dubra, PhD, and his colleagues at the Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, are applying adaptive optics to study cellular function in order to uncover glaucoma biomarkers. Using this technology that enables visualization of individual retinal ganglion cells and the vasculature supplying them, they are aiming to elucidate the role of vascular insult to the nerve fiber layer in glaucoma pathogenesis.
“Many of the available clinical measurements for glaucoma focus on structural changes that are usually a late indicator of disease,” said Dr. Dubra. “We hope that we can move the detection barrier earlier to identify cells that are sick rather than after they are already dead and gone.”
Jeffrey Goldberg, MD, PhD, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, University of Miami, observed that new opportunities for identifying glaucoma biomarkers have emerged thanks to advances in molecular understanding of the disease and in the fields of optics and physics. He also spoke to how the diversity of the Catalyst for a Cure team members, who bring expertise in the biological and physical sciences, will catalyze progress.
Dr. Goldberg added that he derives particular inspiration from his clinical role as a glaucoma specialist, from which he continues to encounter patients who are losing functional vision due to delayed diagnosis or the aggressive nature of their disease.
“It is very motivating to take note of these challenging cases and then go back to the lab where I connect with great collaborators to attack the problem scientifically,” said Dr. Goldberg. “The dream is to be able to help not just the patient in front of me, but patients everywhere by taking a step forward with the science of disease detection and treatment.”
Andrew Huberman, PhD, University of California, San Diego, brings specialized knowledge about the biology of healthy ganglion cells to the consortium. He also believes that the recent influx of new biomedical research techniques combined with the collaborative approach of the team provide a foundation for optimism about the group’s future success.
“There are things possible today and coming in the next few years that were unimagined just 5 to 10 years ago,” Dr. Huberman said.
For more articles in this issue of Ophthalmology Times Conference Brief, click here.