Glaucoma reversed in rats and humans
Researchers have reversed the symptoms of glaucoma in rats using medicated eye drops. Further tests on a small number of human patients also showed promising results. Glaucoma is caused by increased intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eye). This gradually causes damage to the optic nerve, which eventually leads to blindness.
Researchers used rats suffering from glaucoma to test eye drops containing nerve growth factor (NGF). They saw that NGF caused a reduction in the damage and death of the optic nerve cells. Further tests on three human patients showed the drops improved vision in two patients whilst preventing deterioration in the third, after three months.
It is not known exactly how NGF causes this improvement. It may be that chemicals are triggered in the presence of NGF that prevent the cells from dying, or it could be that NGF encourages new connections to be made within the nerve fibres to compensate for those lost due to damage.
However, the possibility that this non-invasive treatment could help prevent deterioration or even improve vision is exciting news, opening up a whole new way of treating glaucoma and preventing unnecessary loss of sight.