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Innovative Therapies: Questions and Answers from Dr. Jack Cioffi

Is research being conducted to develop a vaccine for glaucoma?

Dr Cioffi: Yes. Research labs are seeking ways to stop disease progression by using the body’s own immune system to prevent further neuro-degeneration or loss of nerve cells. Until recently, the development of a vaccine had never been imagined for glaucoma. So it’s a novel approach.

It’s not ready for primetime. It’s not a vaccine that any of us are going to have in our hands tomorrow, but testing is ongoing — not only for glaucoma but for other neuro-degenerative diseases as well.

If a vaccine treatment for glaucoma is successful, would there be a regeneration or growth of nerve tissue?

Vaccines are not aimed at regeneration. The promise of nerve regeneration comes from stem cell research. The hope is that stem cells could repair nerve cells, or even grow new nerve cells to replace the ones that have been damaged by glaucoma. With stem cell research, scientists are hoping to ultimately re-establish functional vision in eyes damaged by glaucoma. But there is much work yet to be done and this research is still many years from possible human use.

What is SLT and how does it work?

SLT stands for Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty. ‘Selective’ means the laser targets cells that have a bit of pigment in them, so instead of causing large burns, it causes little local reactions and stimulates the white blood cells to clean up the eye’s drainage system so the pressure goes down.

SLT holds the promise that it may be repeatable. And if that’s true, it may be a great adjunct therapy. We don’t know yet if the SLT procedure can be repeated many times — those studies are being done now.


This article is excerpted from an October, 2005 President’s Briefing Teleconference with Dr. Jack Cioffi Chairman of the Glaucoma Research Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Committee, and Chief of Ophthalmology and Director of Glaucoma Service at the Devers Eye Institute in Portland, Oregon.

Last reviewed on August 17, 2016

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