More than 60 million people worldwide are living with glaucoma. Given the aging of the world's population, this number may increase to nearly 80 million by 2020. There are more than 3 million Americans living with glaucoma. Since glaucoma often begins with no apparent symptoms, National Glaucoma Research (NGR) urges everyone to regularly get comprehensive eye exams.
Through our NGR program, the BrightFocus Foundation is working to find ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States and the world. NGR supports the best research worldwide through an annual competitive grant program to support top scientists in the U.S. and abroad who are pursing innovative, cutting-edge ideas.
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View our latest video series on glaucoma
View our helpful and easy-to-understand seven-part series concerning glaucoma. These videos are designed for anyone who has glaucoma or is caring for a family member or friend who has this eye disease.
Pushing the Limits of Scientific Knowledge
Since the National Glaucoma Research (NGR) program began in 1978, BrightFocus has awarded more than $21 million to support basic research projects on the causes and potential approaches to prevention and treatment of this disease. NGR is currently supporting 31 biomedical research projects, after recently awarding 11 new grants, including:
- Studying the Increased Risk of Glaucoma with Alzheimer's Disease:
Peter P. De Deyn, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Antwerp, Belgium, is examining how Alzheimer's patients may be at increased risk of developing glaucoma. De Deyn's theory is that people with Alzheimer's disease may have reduced pressure in their cerebrospinal fluid (or CSF, which bathes the brain, eyes, and spinal cord), which may be caused by the brain shrinkage seen in Alzheimer's disease. The combination of reduced CSF pressure and a high eye pressure may play an important role in the development of glaucoma in Alzheimer's disease patients. De Deyn is conducting a human clinical trial to examine a link between the two diseases, as well as animal studies to understand disease mechanisms His work has implications for physicians, who may need to understand the potential for glaucoma in Alzheimer's patients and to monitor their CSF pressure.
- Neuroprotection: How to Survive or Prevent the Death of Cells Affecting Vision:
Scientists at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and Duke University are investigating different ways to promote the survival of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the optic nerve cells normally damaged in glaucoma.
JHU scientist Derek Welsbie, M.D., Ph.D., is working to understand which genes send signals that trigger the death of RGCs. Using automated microscopes and robots, he is turning off tens of thousands of genes, one by one, to see what makes the cells healthier. Zhiyong Yang, M.D., Ph.D., of JHU, along with co-principal investigator Donald J. Zack, M.D., Ph.D., is investigating whether a novel target protein can promote RGC survival, with implications for new drug treatments. Yang is the recipient of BrightFocus' 2012 Douglas H. Johnson award, given to the top-scoring grant applicant in glaucoma research. Shannath Merbs, M.D., Ph.D., of JHU, along with co-principal investigator Raymond A. Enke, Ph.D., is studying DNA changes caused in part by environmental factors and whether manipulation of that process can improve RGC survival.
At Duke, Paloma B. Liton, Ph.D., and her co-principal investigator Molly Walsh, M.D, is examining why and how certain cells appear to effectively “eat themselves” under stress conditions and whether this self-eating process protects the optic nerve against chronic high eye pressure, or makes it more vulnerable to such pressure. Liton is also one of three recipients of BrightFocus' 2012 Thomas R. Lee award, given for outstanding research in glaucoma. Other Lee awardees are John Kuchtey, Ph.D. of Vanderbilt University, conducting research on inherited forms of glaucoma, and Jason Meyer, Ph.D., of Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis, examining potential cell replacement therapies.
Last Review: 04/29/13