Discs at Risk: Novel Optic Nerve Head Phenotyping in Glaucoma

Julie Albon, PhD Cardiff University

Co-Principal Investigators

Wolfgang Drexler, PhD Medical University Vienna
Michael Girard, PhD Imperial College, London
James Morgan, D.Phil., FRCOphth, Rachel North, PhD Cardiff University, Wales


The lamina cribrosa is a structure in the optic nerve that is altered in glaucoma, resulting in vision loss. The aim of this project is to identify early signs of changes in lamina cribrosa integrity before nerve fibers are damaged and vision is lost. These signs will be used to determine a novel quantitative index that will be used to determine which optic nerves are at risk of developing disease.

Project Details

Glaucoma can be difficult condition to detect in the earliest stages, and it is vital that treatment is given as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the eye. Clinical instruments are available to examine the optic nerve head which aim to detect the presence of glaucoma and to monitor its progression. These machines are able to examine the front surface of the optic nerve head, but only a few are able to provide information on what is happening below the surface. Important changes occur under the surface of the optic nerve head in glaucoma and Drs. Julie Albon, James Morgan, Rachel North, Wolfgang Drexler, Michael Girard, and colleagues will use a new machine (a novel type of optical coherence tomography or OCT), which is able to examine both the front surface and parts below the surface in detail. As the optic nerve leaves the eye, it travels through holes (or pores) in the lamina cribrosa. In glaucoma there are changes to these pores and the shape and structure of the lamina cribrosa. Detecting these changes could be an important sign that glaucoma is developing or getting worse. Currently it is not possible for your eye doctor to examine the lamina cribrosa. Dr. Albon and colleagues will develop methods to analyze these changes in the lamina cribrosa so that as the novel technology becomes more available, researchers and eye doctors will be able to detect more rapidly changes to the optic nerve head due to glaucoma.