How well do cell ‘batteries’ work in people with glaucoma?

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Neeru Vallabh
  • Institute: University of Liverpool
  • Region: North West
  • Start date: March 2017
  • End Date: May 2018
  • Priority: Treatment
  • Eye Category: Glaucoma


Glaucoma is the name for a group of conditions that cause irreversible blindness due to optic nerve damage. Some forms of glaucoma are linked to faults in one or more genes and there is increasing evidence that primary open angle glaucoma (the most common form) involves faulty mitochondria.

Mitochondria are battery compartments inside cells. They play an important part in the process of using oxygen and removing the toxic by-products of using oxygen (oxidative stress). They have their own DNA, but it is unstable and prone to developing faults.

Dr Vallabh and team have some evidence from blood tests that people with glaucoma have faulty mitochondria. So in this study, the researchers will measure mitochondrial function and oxidative stress in skin cells taken from patients with primary open angle glaucoma. They want to find out how any changes affect the way these cells behave, compared to cells from healthy volunteers.

They will also try antioxidant therapy to see whether they can ‘rescue’ cells from mitochondrial damage. Results from the study could lead to a new type of treatment to prevent sight loss from glaucoma.