The Significance of Outer Retinal Injury in Glaucoma
T. Michael Nork, BS, MS, MD Board of Regents of University of Wisconsin
Chronic glaucoma results in the loss of retinal ganglion cells. Much of basic glaucoma research has, appropriately, focused on these cells and their axonal connections as they pass through the optic nerve. However, previous work by the principal investigator and by other laboratories have now established that the outer retina (specifically, the photoreceptors) is also affected in both human chronic glaucoma and in a non-human primate model of chronic glaucoma. The significance of this finding is unknown. Dr. Nork plans to apply new research methodologies for examining the relationship between the blood supply to the outer retina and the retinal pathology found in glaucoma.Blindness in glaucoma is caused by retinal ganglion cell loss. Direct injury (either mechanical or vascular) to the optic nerve most likely represents a significant effect. Even so, outer retinal ischemia may play a contributory role in RGC death. With this research into the regional effects of retinal damage in animal models of glaucoma, Dr. Nork hopes to test if outer and inner retinal injury in glaucoma are related. If these and other studies show this to be the case, it could lead to new pathways for pharmacologic intervention in this often inadequately controlled disease process.