Developing a technique to investigate specific cells contribution to abnormal healing

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight / Glaucoma UK Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Julie Albon
  • Institute: Cardiff University
  • Region: Wales
  • Start date: January 2023
  • End Date: May 2024
  • Priority: Understanding
  • Eye Category: Glaucoma
Brief Lay background

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness and is characterised by damage to the optic nerve – which connects the eyes to the brain. 

Around 80 million people across the globe have glaucoma, and with the ageing population, this number is projected to increase to 120 million by 2040.

What problem/knowledge gap does it help address

Glaucoma, which is actually a small group of similar sight loss conditions, has two major risk factors – elevated pressure within the eyes, and older age.

Current treatments for glaucoma aim to lower eye pressure and prevent further sight loss. But these aren’t always effective – and so there is an urgent need for new therapeutic approaches.

The optic nerve head (ONH) – the site where nerve fibres exit the eye and join the optic nerve – becomes stiffer in ageing and glaucoma, triggering an abnormal healing process that progresses nerve damage and leads to further sight loss. Understanding the biological mechanisms driving this response could uncover new avenues for treating glaucoma.

Aim of the project

To develop a novel cutting-edge technique to investigate how specific cell types within the human ONH may contribute to this abnormal healing process.

Key procedures/objectives
  1. Map the location and measure the gene activity of two cell types within the ONH in slices of eye tissue collected from glaucoma patients and healthy individuals.
  2. Analyse these data to look for differences in gene activity at a cell-specific level between glaucoma patients and healthy people.
Potential impact on people with sight loss

An improved understanding of the biological mechanisms behind the development and progression of glaucoma could ultimately lead to effective new treatments that can help slow down or prevent further sight loss in patients.