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Role Identified For A Gene Related To The Development Of Glaucoma

February 16, 2008

Adapted from the University of Iowa

Researchers have found that a gene and a related signaling pathway play a role in the development of glaucoma, which is a common cause of visual impairment and blindness worldwide. The team was led by Alcon Research and included investigators from the University of Iowa and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The study, which revealed that over-expression of the gene, sFRP1, elevates pressure in the eye, could help improve glaucoma diagnosis and lead to the development of sight-saving treatments. The study results appeared online February 14, 2008 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"The cause of glaucoma and the resulting elevation of intraocular pressure has been poorly understood," said Abe Clark, Ph.D., Alcon's vice president of discovery research and head of glaucoma research. "This new discovery may allow researchers to develop therapies to treat the underlying cause of the disease."

"Although there have been leaps and bounds in glaucoma research, we are just beginning to understand the causes of high pressure in the eye and nerve damage that leads to vision loss in glaucoma," said study team member John Fingert, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Jeffrey Rubin, M.D., Ph.D., at NCI's Center for Cancer Research, who was involved in the study, had previously discovered the sFRP1 gene. The team compared the genes that are expressed in the eyes of people with glaucoma to the genes that are expressed in people with healthy eyes. They saw that some genes, including sFRP1, are much more active, or "expressed," in cells from eyes with glaucoma.

This research may help advance the understanding of why some people get glaucoma and others do not.

View all news updates for glaucoma


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