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Video: Speeding the Cure

The Glaucoma Research Foundation funds innovative research to speed the cure for glaucoma.

Working collaboratively, a team of scientists funded by the Glaucoma Research Foundation is applying recent breakthroughs in neuroscience, molecular biology, genetics, and immunology — as well as the latest technology available in biology — to gain insights into the causes of glaucoma. This video was produced in 2006, during the second phase of CFC funding.

- Transcript -

Speeding The Cure video

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. More than 3 million people are affected in the US. Only half are aware of their condition. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans and Latinos.

Melissa Baker:  I was diagnosed with glaucoma when I was 15. I was put out of school quite a bit because I was in and out from surgeries. It was rough.
Anabella Denisoff:  I'm very involved with the blind community and low vision community in Marin County and I hope that with the Glaucoma Research Foundation we can work together.

Michelle McMillan:  I started having headaches and I thought I needed a new prescription for my glasses, and my mother just had a feeling and decided to take me to an eye specialist. I always wanted to know more about glaucoma and about how it affects the African American community, because it is 6 to 8 times more likely to be found in African Americans than Caucasians.

Roger McGuinn:  Five or six years ago I was doing a routine eye examination and my ophthalmologist said, "I think you're a glaucoma suspect." "Suspect" is the word she used. And I went away, and I was kind of depressed for awhile. That was a little tough, wondering if "Gee, this is getting worse. Am I going to go blind?" You don't know. I googled glaucoma and the first thing that came up was the Glaucoma Research Foundation. So we called up and said, "I'd like to get in touch with you because I feel it's important to raise public awareness about this."

SPEEDING THE CURE

David Calkins, PhD: The population is aging, and as that happens, the prevalence of degenerative diseases of the central nervous system is going to increase dramatically. Glaucoma has great similarity with other diseases of the central nervous system such as Alzheimer's Disease or Parkinson's Disease or even Lou Gehrig's Disease. And so it makes a lot of sense then to approach glaucoma as a disease, a neurological problem, a disease of the brain and therefore, recruiting neurobiologists to work on it.

Thomas M. Brunner:  From the beginning, the Glaucoma Research Foundation was all about innovation. If you look at the type of research we do, it is innovative. If you look at our Catalyst for a Cure, it's a very unique approach to bringing collaborative investigation to the field of glaucoma instead of individual scientists working by themselves. It's innovative in terms of looking outside the field of glaucoma for people in other areas like neuroscience and genetics and molecular biology that can then bring their expertise to glaucoma to look at it in perhaps new and different ways.

David Calkins:  The Catalyst for a Cure is a fantastic opportunity to break away from the mold of the lone scientist working in his or her own laboratory to bring people together and force them to collaborate as a team.

Monica Vetter, PhD: This collaborative effort was different in that there were actually four labs working together and we had to put into place a number of methods for allowing us to interact together. So we make a real effort several times a year to get together for informal meetings when we visit each others' labs, where we find a common central place that we all travel to. So by doing that several times over the course of a year, it allows us to set goals that we then come and talk about at the next meeting.

Philip Horner PhD:  We are continuously having to set benchmarks for success and we will do things that the four labs could only do together, not projects that could be done individually.

Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong. PhD:  It's nice to think that what we are doing in our laboratory benches has direct impact on someone's well being.

CATALYST FOR A CURE: GOAL ORIENTED RESEARCH

David Calkins:  One of the first things we set out to do was to study large scale genetic changes associated with the progression of glaucoma. That work has now been partially completed and is ready for publication. And now what we are doing is we are taking the information from that largescale genetic study and we are starting to break it down into different categories of hypotheses.

Philip Horner:  People have been working a very long time to try to either control the pressure or to control how the cells respond to pressure in some way to prevent them from dying. And what we've seen, though, I think which is very exciting and it is also great news for patients with glaucoma is that, that process where the cells actually die or basically succumb to the forces that are there in the eye, that process is a very delayed process. In other words, people probably begin to lose their vision well before those neurons are ever destroyed. What that means is that we can think about targeting the disease in a different way.

Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong:  We know that there have to be these susceptibility genes with glaucoma. We'll have genes that are linked to the disease and then hopefully be able to identify points in that particular pathway that can be points of intervention. The need is great to come to a cure or therapy soon.

THERE ISN'T A MOMENT TO LOSE

Thomas Brunner:  The challenge is to get the story out. So we need a lot more people to understand the importance of this work and why it really is truly ground breaking and different. And I think when they understand that, they are going to want to be a part of it.

Dennis Singleton:  The next step for the Glaucoma Research Foundation is to get more people involved. We are at a critical time in glaucoma research and there isn't a moment to lose. You can get involved by urging your friends to get tested, referring people to our website for more information and by joining the Catalyst for a Cure Campaign. Why not make GRF and the Catalyst for a Cure Campaign, make it your number one charitable priority for the next three years. That's not too much to ask. Whatever level you are able to give, make it your number one priority.

[ Music: "Turn, Turn, Turn" sung by Roger McGuinn ]

Last reviewed on January 16, 2018

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