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Catalyst for a Cure 2015 Research Progress

The Catalyst for a Cure Biomarker Initiative funded by Glaucoma Research Foundation is a collaborative research effort designed to accelerate the pace of discovery toward better treatments and ultimately a cure for glaucoma.

The following video provides a summary of Catalyst for a Cure research and an update on research progress by the team during the year 2014.

Video Transcript

H. Dunbar Hoskins, Jr., MD - GRF as an organization is unique because it's the largest foundation in the country, maybe in the world, focused only on one disease, glaucoma. And we've recognized that glaucoma is a disease of elevated pressure in the eye but it also affects the optic nerve in ways we don't understand. Sometimes you lower pressure and it stops the disease, sometimes it doesn't and in those cases we think there's a neurodegenerative portion for the disease. We've focused in that area, and now are working very hard at trying to recognize the early signs of glaucoma so that we can accelerate the development of treatments.

Jeffrey L. Goldberg, MD, PhD - Glaucoma is a really tough disease. Worldwide, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness other than cataracts, and the big problem worldwide is: we don't have a good way to diagnose the disease - we need better biomarkers, in other words; we have no way for patients who have lost vision in glaucoma, to restore that vision, to give them back vision that we've lost. Right now, all of our treatments, the best that they can do, is try to slow the decline, or prevent the further loss of vision.

Andrew Huberman, PhD - The Catalyst for a Cure consortium is unique in that it involves four different laboratories, each of which is involved in trying to understand a different aspect of detecting, monitoring, and treating glaucoma. And this is unusual in that typically, labs are funded independently to work on projects separate from one another - and they might share their results or talk about their results with one another at a meeting, or after publication - but the whole basis of Catalyst for a Cure is that we actively collaborate at every stage of the projects in order to make more rapid and longstanding progress.

Vivek Srinivasan, PhD - What's unique about this collaboration is that we're funded to collaborate. We can share ideas as they're obtained, immediately. And so if I have a great idea of a new way to measure blood flow in the retina and we implement it in our lab, I can send that immediately over to Alf, and he can build on it in his lab, and accelerate progress and achieve the end goal faster. So that Alf doesn't have to wait until the results are published to pursue them in his lab.

Alfredo Dubra, PhD - One of the things that is really powerful about the approach that we are pursuing is that we are borrowing ideas from astronomy, microscopy, mathematics, and chemistry, even, and then trying to combine them and adapt them so they can be used to study disease in vivo.

Andrew Huberman, PhD - Glaucoma is very difficult to detect and treat for a couple of reasons. One is that the cells that are affected, retinal ganglion cells, are optically clear - and this is very important. Nature designed the eye in a way so that light can pass through the ganglion cells and into the photo receptors, which are the light detecting cells within the retina. But because they’re clear, it's impossible to focus an image onto the ganglion cells and to essentially look at the ganglion cells and see how many they are, and evaluate whether they're healthy or not. So what we'e trying to do is develop biomarkers that will enable us to see those cells in really sharp relief and be able to interrogate those cells and ask whether or not they're in a healthy, sick, or perhaps getting sick state.

Vivek Srinivasan, PhD - One important finding from Andrew Huberman's lab at the University of California San Diego, is that connections in a specific layer of the retina change first in early glaucoma. We believe that this particular layer of the retina may provide us with a biomarker for early changes in glaucoma.

Alfredo Dubra, PhD - A central portion of this search for biomarkers is to develop tools that are not available currently. One of the techniques that was the most exciting development in the last year, not only for glaucoma but actually for the whole of the vision community, is the development of the split detection technique. There are two key innovations here in this device. And one of them is a little mask over here that actually, rather than just collecting the light through a central small pinhole, is actually letting all the light around that pinhole, rather than be wasted, is collected here in the back by two light detectors - and by combining those two, we've been able to create images with unprecedented contrast of things that are transparent inside the retina. And that really has been, probably, one of the most exciting optical innovations in the field. It is what is allowing us to study the vasculature, and we're hoping that we can continue to improve on this technique to hopefully one day reveal the retinal ganglion cells noninvasively.

Vivek Srinivasan, PhD - I'd like to thank the friends, donors, and supporters of the Glaucoma Research Foundation Catalyst for a Cure for their support. I believe that the momentum that this team has built over the past three years, the expertise we've developed in glaucoma, and the ideas we've identified for earlier detection, better diagnosis and management and treatment of the disease are all very exciting. And I think that over the next three years we have a real potential to have a significant impact in how this disease is managed and treated.

End Transcript.

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Last reviewed on October 29, 2017

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