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This article is excerpted from a May 2009 President’s Teleconference with members of our Catalyst Circle, in which Dr. Philip Horner of the University of Washington reported on recent discoveries by the Catalyst For a Cure research consortium.
Thomas M. Brunner: At our 2009 Benefit, the Catalyst For a Cure research team was enthusiastic about progress toward finding a cure. What makes you optimistic that we really are zeroing in on some answers?
Philip J. Horner, PhD: I’m optimistic because we have proof that our approach works. What I mean by that is that we’ve studied this particular model of glaucoma, and our studies have led us to be able to make predictions of what underpins the disease. We’ve taken those predictions and conducted pre-clinical models, or pre-clinical trials, in which we’ve had multiple successes in which we’ve intervened and the disease has been slowed. That makes me very excited that this is a pliable disease, and we can change the course of the disease.
We now have data that shows that you can protect the ganglion cell by increasing its resistance to oxidative stress; we have evidence that you can influence its survival by indirectly blocking the pressure signal through a protein that ganglion cells make; we have data that suggests you can slow the disease by manipulating support cells called the microglia; we have another set of data that suggests you can slow the disease by inhibiting another type of glial cell called the astrocyte. So, we’ve discovered all of these things, none of which cure the disease, they only slow it.
Why I’m is excited is that I don’t know of any other disease in which we’ve pinned down so many important mechanisms, and if we can find a “linker” between these, I think we’ll cure the disease. I’m very enthusiastic that that’s possible, and I don’t think it’s unrealistic to believe that we will find a common mediator for these varying cell types and varying pathways - one in which we’ll shut the whole degenerative program down, or slow it down so much that it will essentially be a cure.
Last reviewed on June 29, 2015
This article appeared in the January 2010 issue of Gleams.Subscribe