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Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, PhD discusses the Catalyst For a Cure, funded by the Glaucoma Research Foundation.
The Marsh-Armstrong laboratory studies molecular mechanisms involved in gene regulation, development and disease of the central nervous system, focusing principally on the retina. In this video, Dr. Marsh-Armstrong discusses:
“If the whole scientific environment was structured in this way, the speed of curing glaucoma and other diseases would be accelerated tremendously.”
Catalyst For a Cure was a very unique idea of a different approach to doing science, and bringing in scientists who had no or little previous knowledge about glaucoma. That is, getting a fresh new view from outsiders to see what they would have to bring to understanding and hopefully curing this disease.
The particular expertise that we all came with are, as neurobiologists, we have different subspecialities. But we're all neurobiologists, so we all came in from a neurobiological perspective trying to understand, as Dave had mentioned previously, that we knew a lot about pressure, but now we needed to know about what's downstream of pressure. In particular, how the retinal ganglion cells are dying and what we can do about it.
So the approach was different but also the backgrounds and the expertise that were convened into this project was really different from what has been done before.
I think that if the whole scientific environment was structured in such a way, the speed of curing glaucoma and other diseases would be accelerated tremendously. So we hope that other scientists can learn from this type of approach and be more collaborative in sharing their knowledge and their resources.
The major findings coming from my laboratory in this past year have had to do with what is happening not only to the retinal ganglion cell and what are the molecular changes that are occurring within the retinal ganglion cell at various aspects of the disease, both at the very early stages but also as the disease progresses — so from a molecular perspective, what the retinal ganglion cell is doing during glaucoma. But the second aspect of the disease that we're presenting — we think these are very interesting and exciting findings — has to do with not the cell body itself in the retina, but rather what is happening to the axons of those cells and also the other cells that are in contact with the axons of the retinal ganglion cells.
What we're seeing is that this disease is very similar to many other diseases of the nervous system, and we have the great benefit of learning from what has been learned about these other diseases that we can now apply that to glaucoma as well.
The biggest challenge we have now is, of all the various changes that we now know are happening in glaucoma, the challenge is to identify the treatable targets. And not only the treatable targets —we know a number of treatable targets — but we want to get the best treatable targets, and the ones that can get to be of use to glaucoma patients as soon as possible.
That is a challenge, so we've, in the last few years, brought in, and it's not only the researchers in the Glaucoma Research Foundation, but there's many other scientists who study glaucoma without whose work we would not have been able to advance the field, for sure. But the level of understanding now is immense.
We just now have to translate those, with taking already a number of interventional approaches, and have been partially successful, and that tells us that we're certainly on the right path. We know what the disease is, because we try to halt various processes that we know are going on. In fact, those interventions that we do, in fact, slow down the progression of the disease. That's not good enough. There's a lot of work to be done still.
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Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, PhD is Assistant Professor in the Departments of Ophthalmology and Neuroscience at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD.
Last reviewed on January 16, 2018