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Catalyst for a Cure: A Decade of Innovation

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Video Transcript

Thomas Brunner: Catalyst for a Cure (CFC) is a unique approach to research developed by Glaucoma Research Foundation, which involves bringing together scientists from different backgrounds to work collaboratively to understand the mechanisms of glaucoma with the goal of improved treatment, and someday, a cure.

Monica L. Vetter, PhD: When the Catalyst for a Cure began, there was a substantial focus in glaucoma on managing pressure, which is still an important clinical problem, and also on understanding retinal ganglion cell death. And I think what’s really transformed the field in the last ten years, and in part due to the efforts of the Catalyst for a Cure consortium, is really focusing on the earlier mechanisms, and also thinking about glaucoma as a neurodegenerative disease.

Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, PhD: It’s night and day; how we view this disease is completely different now than it was ten years ago. It’s not all about the retinal ganglion cells, because there are these other cells that we have to be thinking about if we want to cure this disease. There’s astrocytes, there’s microglia; there are some other cells that are all contributing to this disease. We understand now a lot of the molecular and cellular detail of that because of the work of the CFC as well as other groups.

Philip J. Horner, PhD: When we first entered the field of glaucoma we were all neophytes. We weren’t experts in the field and we garnered from the literature that the primary understanding of glaucoma was that this was, if you will, a mechanical disease in some way. There would be pressure elevated in the eye, and when that pressure elevated, ganglion cells would die. But what we found over the first few years when we began is that ganglion cell death isn’t a rapid event, at least not in the case of glaucoma. What it is, is it’s a slow, protracted event. And then what we decided, and we set about to do, which I think has changed the thinking broadly in glaucoma, is to look at all the other elements that really hadn’t been looked at very well during the cell death process. So what we did is we asked, what happens very early, what happens upstream of cell death? If cell death is a slow process, maybe there are some hallmarks, some harbingers, of what happens before cell death that would give you a good clinical target for slowing or preventing the disease.

Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, PhD: Glaucoma is that rare disease among neurodegenerative diseases, where, if we’re only able to identify people with the disease before we currently can do, we have the potential of having a significant impact on human health. I think that the Catalyst for a Cure, as a collective, has really contributed to bringing glaucoma research to a different level from where it was before. We’ve brought the hard science to glaucoma and I think that is for the benefit of glaucoma patients today and in the future.

David J. Calkins, PhD: We’re very excited right now, because, having traced the earliest pathogenic events in glaucoma, over the last several years we’ve actually identified several molecular cascades that we think translate stress in the eye in glaucoma to the earliest neuronal response in the disease. So a recent focus in my laboratory has been on identifying drugs that quench that stress response and abate degeneration and progression. And we’re very excited that in our preclinical models we’ve tested some of these new drugs and had very promising results.

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Last reviewed on September 14, 2015

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