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Catalyst for a Cure — Leading to an Important Discovery

The Catalyst for a Cure researchers
The Catalyst for a Cure researchers

Addressing the need for improved glaucoma diagnostics and treatments is an explicit goal of the Catalyst for a Cure (CFC) research team. 2014 was the third year of the collaborative CFC Biomarker Initiative.

The CFC researchers are working to identify new glaucoma biomarkers and develop technology to accurately measure those biomarkers in glaucoma patients.

Glaucoma Research Foundation is funding this unique collaborative team of four laboratories with complementary skill sets spanning neuroscience, optical imaging, engineering, and clinical ophthalmology.

This innovative funding approach has allowed the CFC scientists led by Alf Dubra, Jeff Goldberg, Andrew Huberman, and Vivek Srinivasan to greatly accelerate their pace of discovery and explore new directions in glaucoma research. This year their work has led to several exciting discoveries:

  1. The identification of specific types of retinal ganglion cells that undergo marked changes in their structure at very early stages of glaucoma, long before nerve cells in the eye are lost or visual defects occur. A remarkable insight related to this discovery is that the early vulnerable cells receive their synaptic connections closest to the inner retinal blood supply.
  2. The discovery of novel approaches to studying retinal ganglion cell and optic nerve metabolism, including mitochondrial function and oxygen consumption.
  3. The invention and development of novel methods for imaging the human retina, including the finest details of cells, blood vessels and even retinal metabolism, all non-invasively, without the need to inject any dyes or chemicals. Other new and non-invasive methods will be used for measurement of energy usage and blood flow, precisely in the layers that are most directly affected in early glaucoma.

Through the use of state-of-the-art imaging techniques to visualize blood vessels and neurons, CFC researchers are probing for and characterizing the nature of the earliest changes associated with glaucoma.

These novel technologies will benefit research into, and diagnosis of, other retinal and neurodegenerative diseases as well and may potentially identify new targets for treatment.

The team is focused on transitioning research to early phase clinical testing of glaucoma patients and is planning the next phase of applying their early findings to routine clinical evaluations as well.

The Catalyst for a Cure Principal Investigators


Alfredo Dubra, PhD
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Stanford University School of Medicine

The Dubra lab is developing non-invasive optical imaging methods for early detection and monitoring of eye disease. The lab pursues a multidisciplinary approach, with a major focus on translating techniques and analytical tools from physics, astronomy and mathematics into robust quantitative diagnostic tools.


Jeffrey L. Goldberg, MD, PhD
Professor and Chair,
Department of Ophthalmology,
Stanford University School of Medicine
Palo Alto, California

Dr. Goldberg's research is directed at neuroprotection and regeneration of retinal ganglion cells and other retinal neurons. His laboratory is developing novel stem cell and nanotherapeutics approaches for ocular repair, studying retinal ganglion cell development, survival and axon regeneration in glaucoma, and investigating the cellular basis for the developmental loss of axon growth ability.


Andrew D. Huberman, PhD
Associate Professor,

Departments of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology
Stanford University School of Medicine

The Huberman laboratory seeks to understand how the retinal and brain circuits that underlie vision wire up during development and to develop new strategies to monitor, prevent, and treat retinal ganglion cell loss in glaucoma.


Vivek Srinivasan, PhD
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering
University of California, Davis
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Davis, California

The Srinivasan Biophotonics Laboratory develops novel optical imaging techniques and diagnostics with applications spanning from basic to clinical research. In particular, the lab is interested in neuronal control of hemodynamics and metabolism both in health and disease in the central nervous system, including the retina and brain. Their highly interdisciplinary approach combines cutting edge imaging technologies with collaborations ranging from neurobiology to neurology and ophthalmology to test fundamental hypotheses and explore the diagnostic implications.

Last reviewed on October 29, 2017

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