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Glaucoma Research Foundation President and CEO Thomas M. Brunner reports on the state of glaucoma research from the 2016 ARVO meeting that took place in Seattle.
Attendance at ARVO is always an exciting time as I’m able to learn about many of the latest advances in glaucoma research and also visit with Catalyst for a Cure (CFC) scientists, Shaffer grant recipients, our scientific advisors, and many industry friends. This year was no exception and it was particularly interesting to attend sessions related to our CFC investigations about neuroprotection, biomarkers, and imaging. The Biomarker team presented 15 papers and posters and there were 5 papers from the CFC I team. I was able to meet with David Calkins and Nick Marsh-Armstrong from the CFC I and to have lunch with the CFC II team.
There was a Section Meeting on Retinal Ganglion Cell Pathology chaired by Arthur Weber, PhD, one of our Scientific Advisors, and Keith Martin, MD, and Adriana Di Polo, PhD, both former Shaffer Grant recipients. Presenters included: Andy Huberman, PhD who reported on his work with the Biomarker initiative and early nerve cell changes in glaucoma; David Calkins, PhD, reported on his research on changes to the ganglion cell connection to the brain; Rachel Wong, PhD, and Adriana Di Polo, both Shaffer grant recipients. The session was an excellent update on the research surrounding the earliest changes to the retinal nerve cells which may be early diagnostics or even treatment targets for glaucoma.
The next day there was a mini-symposium chaired by Adriana Di Polo and Keith Martin specifically about glaucoma neuroprotection with presentations from major researchers around the country and world working on specific early changes to the optic nerve that might provide new treatment opportunities. The session was well attended and further illustrates the impact of the Catalyst for a Cure neuroprotection research as their discoveries continue to be pursued and expanded toward ways to protect the retinal ganglion cells from damage due to glaucoma.
The day before ARVO, I attended a full day conference on Imaging in the Eye. New imaging techniques and improvements to existing instrumentation were discussed. There are some impressive developments with OCT, optical coherence tomography, which is like a 3D ultrasound of the retina using light. There are new techniques that enable images of the retinal blood vessels which may replace photographic imaging which requires injection of a contrast agent into an artery. There are also new methods of measuring the thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer as a potential biomarker for glaucoma.
Also at ARVO there were two sessions chaired by Paul Sieving, MD, PhD, Director of the National Eye Institute, around the NEI Audacious Goals to restore or regenerate the retina and optic nerve. These sessions were well attended and show the ongoing commitment from NEI and NIH to finding better treatments and cures for major blinding diseases like glaucoma. Dr. Sieving spoke about the progress to date and addressed the NEI interest in multi-principal investigator research to spur collaboration which reflects the impact of the Catalyst for a Cure collaborative research model pioneered by Glaucoma Research Foundation. NEI is going more toward a research model with specific goals, oversight committees and annual meetings to review progress. Again techniques used in our CFC research program. It’s good to see the interest in translational research and grants with well-defined goals.
ARVO is an important meeting and Glaucoma Research Foundation had a strong presence through the ideas and scientists we fund. The investments of our donors and board are having a very real and positive impact on glaucoma research and maintaining a focus on improved treatments and a cure.
Article by Thomas M. Brunner, President and CEO of Glaucoma Research Foundation in San Francisco, California.
Last reviewed on February 17, 2017