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Catalyst for a Cure Biomarkers Team Defines Milestones

Retinal ganglion cell image from the Huberman lab
Retinal ganglion cell image from the Huberman lab

The goal of Catalyst for a Cure research collaboration - funded by Glaucoma Research Foundation - is to discover clinically applicable biomarkers for the detection, monitoring and treatment of glaucoma.

The consortium has defined several early target milestones and work toward those milestones in now fully underway:

  1. Search for and identify cells that reliably display changes in morphology and/or function and provide a means for early detection of glaucoma.
  2. Test the hypothesis that changes in mitochondrial function or vascular flow represent early biomarkers for glaucoma.
  3. Test the hypothesis that synapse loss in the inner retina is the earliest change in glaucoma that can be directly imaged in humans.

Progress toward these goals has been steady. All four labs are now fully established and running experiments. The four principal investigators talk regularly to discuss progress and members of the various groups travel to each other’s labs to carry out and discuss collaborative experiments.

Some key findings have emerged from these efforts that direct the focus for the next phase of experiments.

  • Using a combination of genetic tools in a model of glaucoma, the CFC researchers have identified candidate early-detection cells. They have started testing markers and methods to aid visualization of these and other retinal cell types.
  • The CFC team has built an Adaptive Optics Imaging system for imaging retinal cells that will allow visualization of synaptic connections in the inner retina with unprecedented detail.
  • The CFC is establishing protocols for high-resolution imaging of mitochondrial transport and of inner retinal vasculature under conditions of reduced ganglion cell activity.

Together, these approaches incorporate the expertise of all four laboratories and maximize the benefits of collaboration.

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The Catalyst for a Cure principal investigators are, from left to right: Alfredo Dubra, PhD (The Eye Institute, Medical College of Wisconsin), Andrew Huberman, PhD (University of California, San Diego), Jeffrey L. Goldberg, MD, PhD (Shiley Eye Center, UC San Diego), and Vivek Srinivasan, PhD (University of California, Davis).

Last reviewed on October 29, 2017

This article appeared in the January 2014 issue of Gleams.

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