New type of glaucoma treatment in clinical trial

31 October 16

written by:

Ade Deane-Pratt

(more articles)

Researchers aim to protect the optic nerve instead of lowering eye pressure

Researchers in the USA have begun a clinical trial to test a new type of treatment for glaucoma. Glaucoma is the world’s leading cause of irreversible blindness. Sight loss happens gradually over time due to the death of the optic nerve cells that connect eye to brain.

Current treatment is focussed on lowering eye pressure, which is a risk factor for the condition, with eye drops or surgery to improve drainage from the eye. Now Dr Jeffrey Goldberg and team at Stanford University in the USA are testing a different approach.

Human cell implants

The team has genetically modified human cells to produce a substance called ‘ciliary neurotrophic factor’ (CNTF). It protects nerve cells from death and helps them grow.

A capsule filled with the modified cells will be implanted into the eye of the participants in the study, where it will release a steady stream of CNTF. Participants will be followed-up for two years to see whether the treatment can halt sight loss or even improve vision.

“This is a very exciting study with the potential for CNTF therapy to transform glaucoma treatment,” said Dr Dolores Conroy, Director of Research at Fight for Sight. “With funding from Fight for Sight Prof MacLaren at the University of Oxford has shown that CNTF gene therapy, gives long-term protection to light-sensitive photoreceptors in the mouse eye. CNTF may also provide a novel therapy for retinal diseases.”