National Glaucoma Research Report: Spring 2019

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National Glaucoma Research Report: Spring 2019

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Recent Study Demonstrates Promising New Technology

National Glaucoma Research Grant Provided Critical Early Funding

A recent study performed by National Glaucoma Research grantee Guorong Li, MD, of Duke University School of Medicine, in collaboration with numerous other researchers in the field, demonstrated a new optical coherence tomography (OCT) technology. This new method enables doctors to better see the outflow pathways in the eye without touching the eye. Specifically, the tissues that drain fluid from the eye and, in part, control eye pressure. Unfortunately, the majority of available treatments do not target, or intentionally bypass, the diseased and stiffened glaucomatous outflow tissues responsible for elevated eye pressure.

Dr. Li, who is the lead author of the study, has refined the technology using animal models of glaucoma and is hopeful that it will become a valuable tool for assessing disease status and tissue function. This new technology has the potential to provide doctors with the ability to evaluate recently approved treatments targeting the outflow tissues and inform glaucoma surgery decisions.

Lowering eye pressure effectively slows the progression of the disease and is a primary risk factor that is currently modifiable. This tool will be key to monitor disease progress by allowing non-invasive monitoring of eye pressure.

One of the senior authors in this study, W. Daniel Stamer, PhD, Professor of Ophthalmology at Duke University School of Medicine, says, “We are excited about our new technological breakthrough that propels the understanding of outflow tissue functional status and how the use of common OCT imaging could help better manage patients with glaucoma.”

President’s Corner

Catalyst and collaborator are two of the most important roles National Glaucoma Research plays in the search for a cure. And your generous support helps us do both!

As a catalyst to a broad array of promising research, our early-stage grants ensure scientists with novel approaches can get started… like Dr. Guorong Li, featured on the cover. The progress of her team might not have been possible without our first grant. And many of our researchers receive multiple grants from us as their work
builds momentum.

We also foster and facilitate collaboration and communication between researchers around the globe. We believe this will enable the scientific journey toward better treatments, prevention, and an even faster cure.

Your loyal support does make all the difference. Thanks to you, I’m confident there will one day be a future free from this “sneak thief of sight.” Thank you!

Stacy Pagos Haller

Why Is Age a Risk Factor for Glaucoma?

Older age is not only a risk factor for glaucoma, but also for its progression. Studies have shown that the percentage of patients with glaucoma increases dramatically with age, especially for individuals who are of Latino/Hispanic and African descent.

Aging likely contributes to the vulnerability of the optic nerve over time, such that the aged optic nerve is less able to withstand various affronts, like elevated eye pressure. In addition, the pathway by which eye fluid flows out of the eye also likely begins to weaken over time, which can gradually increase eye pressure. Age is also a risk factor for primary angle-closure glaucoma because, as we get older, the lens thickens, which can further narrow angles.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that adults with no signs or risk factors of eye disease should have a baseline comprehensive eye exam at age 40. The National Eye Institute recommends that African Americans over age 40, everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans, and people with a family history of glaucoma should have a comprehensive eye exam.

Spotlight On ... Ephraim F. Trakhtenberg, PhD

A New Approach for Regenerating the Injured Optic Nerve


National Glaucoma Research grantee Ephraim F. Trakhtenberg, PhD, from the University of Connecticut Health Center, is working to identify new biological regulators that are fundamental to the ability of the retinal cells to regrow nerve connections between the eye and the brain. The biological molecular mechanisms that control the growth of connections in the central nervous system are still poorly understood. Not knowing how these connections happen in the first place also limits understanding why these nerves cannot regenerate when vision is lost.

Dr. Trakhtenberg’s research leverages state-of-the-art bioinformatic and biological approaches. Bioinformatics combines biology, computer science, information engineering, mathematics, and statistics to analyze and interpret biological data. This research could lead to the development of therapeutics for restoring simple visual abilities to those who become blind due to angle-closure glaucoma and possibly other types of glaucoma.

How Long Does It Take to Go Blind from Glaucoma?


How quickly blindness can occur when someone has glaucoma varies from person to person and is determined by many factors, including ones you can control. To help reduce your risk of going blind, follow three important steps:

  1. Have regular, comprehensive eye exams.
  2. Follow up with your ophthalmologist as prescribed.
  3. Carefully follow the treatment plan given to you by your doctor.

Glaucoma, in its most common form, is considered a slowly progressive neurodegenerative disease of the optic nerve. The disease damages the retinal ganglion cells and eventually causes them to die, resulting in irreversible blindness. On average, we have 1 million retinal ganglion cells in each eye, and glaucoma typically damages these cells in a pattern that affects the peripheral (side) vision first. These vision changes typically go unnoticed because one eye can compensate for the other until the advanced stages of the disease. In early and moderate stages, and sometimes even advanced stages of glaucoma, the central vision can remain at 20/20.

It may be possible that if a person is diagnosed early in the disease, before any field of vision changes are measurable, the individual will never experience a reduction in vision-related quality of life due to glaucoma. However, the later one is diagnosed, the higher the likelihood of suffering from decreased vision and vision-related quality of life problems.

Eye Doctor Addresses Importance of Clinical Trials

Speaking on a recent BrightFocus Chat, Gayatri Reilly, MD, with the Retina Group of Washington, spoke of the importance of clinical trials in vision research. These are excerpts from that interview:

What do you suggest people do if they want to learn more about clinical trials?

Dr. Reilly: It really helps to have family involved in the initial discussion so everybody hears the same thing. Be prepared with a list of questions. What is the treatment? What are my expectations? How often will I be evaluated? What are the possible risks? Side effects? How do I know if the medication is working? What is being done for
my safety?

What prompted you to want to help lead a trial site for a clinical trial?

Dr. Reilly: It was being able to offer something that we can’t offer right now. I think it’s so exciting to be able to investigate something that has the potential to be better, such as a better drug, or one that might last longer or be a completely different way to treat the eye than we’ve already been doing. I find that extremely exciting. We spend a lot of time going through numerous clinical trials that are brought to us to make sure anything that we offer is going to be safe and good for the patients.

To receive a free copy of “Clinical Trials: Your Questions Answered” and learn how you can participate in clinical research, visit or
call 855-345-6647.

This is the last in a series of articles promoting awareness of clinical trials that is supported in part by an educational sponsorship from Biogen. BrightFocus is solely responsible for the content of the article.

Carrot “Fries”

Packed with Vitamin A, flavorful carrot “fries” are an easy side dish to serve with any spring meal.


  • 2 lbs carrots scrubbed and peeled if desired
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. Set aside.
  2. Slice carrots into even-sized “fries.” Toss with olive oil and spices. Transfer to foil-lined baking sheet.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Carefully stir the carrots and return to oven. Bake another 10-15 minutes until carrots are roasted. If desired, broil for a few minutes to get even crispier textured “fries.”
  4. Serve with ketchup or other sauce if desired. Enjoy!

Makes 4 servings.

Change Lives Through Your Legacy

A planned gift to National Glaucoma Research, a program of BrightFocus Foundation, is a generous way to direct your assets to a cause you care about and that will impact countless lives long into the future. A charitable bequest through your will or trust isn’t complicated and can be of any size and will make a real, lasting difference.

To learn more about including National Glaucoma Research in your estate plans, please contact Charles Thomas at 301-556-9397 or Your financial or legal advisor can also assist you and may request our Federal Tax ID Number which is: 23-7337229, to complete the appropriate forms.

Preparing for Your Eye Exam

What to Bring to Your Appointment

  • Insurance information and a photo ID
  • Eyeglasses or contact lenses you currently wear
  • Information on any history of eye disease in your family
  • A list of medications, vitamins, and supplements
  • Details about any allergies or other medical conditions
  • Any symptoms you’re experiencing, even if they don’t seem related to your vision
  • A notepad and pen to write down key points
  • A friend or relative to accompany you, if possible

Questions Your Doctor May Ask You

  • When did you first notice your vision problem?
  • Does the condition affect one or both eyes?
  • Do you have trouble seeing things near to you, at a distance, or both?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Do you have other medical conditions?
  • Do you take any vitamins or supplements?
  • What medications do you take?
  • What types of foods do you eat?
  • Do you have a family history of glaucoma?

Prevention: Lower Your Risk for Glaucoma

If you’re at risk of developing glaucoma, medical experts recommend a healthy lifestyle. Follow these tips to help reduce your risk:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Keep your blood pressure at a normal level and control other medical conditions.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Limit caffeine intake to moderate levels, because some evidence suggests that high amounts of caffeine may increase eye pressure.
  • Try to exercise daily by doing physical activities such as walking, swimming, or working in the yard.
  • Prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses and hats.
  • Get regular, comprehensive eye exams, and consult your doctor if you notice changes in your vision.
  • If you are African American, taking prescription eye drops could cut your risk of getting glaucoma in half.

Learn more about glaucoma at