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What is a biomarker? A biomarker is an indicator of a biological condition that, in some cases, can assist in the diagnosis and management of disease.
Molecular biomarkers have yet to be explored in glaucoma. Currently, in the management of glaucoma we look at structure and function of the nerve tissue at the back of the eye. We try to evaluate if the patient’s retina or optic nerve is losing tissue and whether this is accompanied by diminished sensitivity to light across the visual fields.
These important areas of clinical practice are still actively researched and continue to yield promising findings. However, the benefit of identifying molecular biomarkers that indicate when a patient’s nerve tissue is injured is to provide the physician with a new tool to track progression, before the tissue is lost permanently and further visual field deterioration occurs.
Identifying molecular biomarkers for glaucoma promises many possible benefits. A molecular biomarker might have predictive use that could help guide more specific therapy in some glaucoma patients. For example, it might help a glaucoma physician know when to intervene earlier. In addition a good biomarker could be used to demonstrate efficacy of drug activity, potentially accelerating federal approval for glaucoma drugs, particularly those that protect the retina and optic nerve.
The Glaucoma Research Foundation will be emphasizing research into biomarkers for glaucoma to stimulate activity in this area. The identification of a metabolic marker indicating tissue injury with accuracy could potentially help predict glaucoma in patients who do not yet show symptoms of vision loss. Such a marker could help doctors treating glaucoma know whether the patient is likely to progress and therefore treat the disease more aggressively or whether treatment is even required in certain patients.
In the search for a glaucoma biomarker, we hope to find a tool to predict accurately and early if tissue is damaged and with greater sensitivity than the diagnostic tools currently available. Such a biomarker might serve as an early indicator for disease monitoring and intervention.
Article by Martin Wax, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President of Research and Development of PanOptica, Inc. located in Bernardsville, NJ.
First published January 4, 2012
Last reviewed on June 09, 2021