National Glaucoma Research Report: Winter 2017

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In This Issue

  • National Glaucoma Research Report: Winter 2017
    National Glaucoma Research Report: Winter 2017
    Experimental Drugs Implanted in Eye May Enhance Visual Function

  • President’s Corner

    Ask the Expert:

    Can you have glaucoma without increased eye pressure?

  • Your Genetic Risk for Glaucoma
    Spotlight On … Shahid Husain, PhD

  • New Recipe: Creamy Orange- Cherry Oatmeal

  • Fight to Cure Glaucoma through Planned Giving

Experimental Drugs Implanted in Eye May Enhance Visual Function

A Promising Effort in the Fight Against Glaucoma National Glaucoma

National Glaucoma Research grantee Jeffrey Goldberg, MD, PhD, chair of ophthalmology at Stanford University and director of the Byers Eye Institute, is taking an innovative approach in the fight against glaucoma.

He will be using a capsule that, when implanted in the eye, would deliver a steady stream of growth factors to protect the optic nerve and possibly enhance visual function in patients with glaucoma.

Goldberg’s innovative NT-501 encapsulated cell therapy could stimulate activity and growth of the optic nerve. The capsule is filled with genetically modified human cells. These cells secrete ciliary neurotropic factor, which can stimulate nerve growth and activity. Subjects in a recently launched Phase-2 clinical trial will be observed for two years, looking for any changes in their vision.

The capsule targets the retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in the eyes that carry light signals to the brain, which become damaged in those with glaucoma. Researchers believe that it might stop the damage to the RGCs or improve existing vision.

“It will be an enormous step forward if either of these can be demonstrated,” said Goldberg. “We have no approved treatments that address the degeneration of the RGCs or their axons, so this is a huge unmet need.”

Thanks to the support of our generous donors, National Glaucoma Research is proud to support this promising effort toward the goal of protecting and preserving sight.

President’s Corner

Learning & Sharing

The science of sight is a moving target. Researchers are constantly experimenting, learning, and progressing in their pursuit of a cure for glaucoma. And through their tireless work, we have hope for the future.
I’m thrilled that National Glaucoma Research is able to fund the work of Dr. Jeffrey Goldberg (cover story), who is making great strides in the fight against glaucoma. Truly innovative studies like his help fuel our confidence that there will one day be a cure for this “sneak thief of sight.”

Glaucoma research is only possible with the help of friends like you. Through your generosity, scientists around the globe are able to pursue the goal of a world without glaucoma. We’re then able to share their discoveries with you, inspiring you and your loved ones to take action toward protecting your sight.

Thank you for your continued support, as we look toward a brighter future.

Stacy Pagos Haller

Ask the Expert:

Can you have glaucoma without increased eye pressure?

Elevated eye pressure increases the risk of developing glaucoma. However, glaucoma can occur in people with normal or even lower-than-normal eye pressure.

Optic nerve damage is what can lead to vision loss and possible blindness. In many people, fluid pressure increases inside the eye and damages the optic nerve (the bundle of nerve fibers that carries information from the eye to the brain). But individuals with higher-than-normal eye pressure do not always develop the symptoms of glaucoma.

Since normal-tension glaucoma does not involve high eye pressure, it is diagnosed by observing the optic nerve for any signs of damage. The eye doctor will use an ophthalmoscope to look through the pupil at the shape and color of the optic nerve. In addition, a visual field test can help determine if there is any loss of peripheral vision. The risk factors for developing normal-tension glaucoma include a family history of glaucoma, low eye pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

Ongoing research is aimed at determining all of the factors that contribute to optic nerve damage. For example, scientists believe the optic nerve may be affected by blood flow in the eye. Researchers are also investigating susceptibility and genetic factors.

Your Genetic Risk for Glaucoma

Early-Onset Glaucoma

The genetic risk factors that underlie early-onset glaucoma (diagnosed at age 35 or earlier) have been fairly well-studied. For the following forms of glaucoma, it is important for potential parents-to-be to have discussions with a genetic counselor.

Primary congenital glaucoma, a form of glaucoma diagnosed in infancy, can be caused by mutations in two genes, CYP1B1 or LTBP2. In congenital glaucoma, both parents are carriers of the mutation but do not have glaucoma. Some of their children, however, may inherit both copies of the mutation (one from each parent), which results in the child having glaucoma.

Another type of childhood glaucoma is developmental glaucoma, associated with mutations in genes that are involved in eye development. These children often have abnormalities in the front part of the eye and in structures that drain the eye fluid. Some of the genes associated with these different forms of developmental glaucoma include PITX2, PAX6, and FOXC1. Only one copy of the mutated gene needs to be inherited in order for the glaucoma to be apparent.

Patients who are diagnosed with glaucoma before the age of 35 may have a form of glaucoma that is associated with a mutation in a gene called myocilin. Parents with this form of early-onset glaucoma may pass the mutation on to 50 percent of their children.

Adult-Onset Glaucoma

Age-related open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of this disease, does not have just one gene mutation that causes the disease but multiple gene variants that confer risk.

These include CDKN2B-AS, SIX1/SIX6, TMCO1, and CAV1/CAV2. The CDKN2B-AS gene and a region on chromosome 8 were identified to be associated with normal-tension glaucoma, where people have glaucoma, but do not have elevated eye pressure.

Recent research has opened up avenues to our understanding of the underlying genetics of common forms of adult-onset glaucoma. However, it is not as straightforward as a single gene mutation leading to glaucoma, so at this point there is no recommended genetic testing. In the future, however, there may be new genetic testing strategies that examine multiple genes.

Spotlight On … Shahid Husain, PhD

“My father had glaucoma and I saw how his vision and quality of life declined over time,” Shahid Husain, PhD, shares. “It is so painful to see that in someone who you love the most.”

In his National Glaucoma Research-funded study, Dr. Husain and his team will limit the abnormal production of toxic proteins to slow or halt the resulting death of neurons, which can lead to blindness in glaucoma. This project promises to pave the way to identify new therapeutic agents for glaucoma therapy.

“I’m very hopeful that one day we will find a cure,” says Dr. Husain. “Such hopes can become a reality if organizations like BrightFocus Foundation and its supporters continue to support novel and innovative ideas to bring about highly useful therapies for glaucoma.”

Fight to Cure Glaucoma through Planned Giving

Create a lasting legacy that supports your charitable values long after your life and that will continue to fight this “sneak thief of sight.” Through planned giving, you can leave money or assets to National Glaucoma Research, a program of BrightFocus Foundation, at the time of our death through your financial or estate plan. It may also enable you to receive a stream of income for life, provide a charitable income tax deduction, and reduce or eliminate estate taxes. For more information or if you have any questions, visit or call Charles Thomas at 1-855-345-6647.

Creamy Orange-Cherry Oatmeal

This delicious dish, shared by the American Optometric Association, is especially rich in the omega-3 fat DHA, vitamin C, vitamin E, folate, and zinc.


  • 1½ cups milk or milk substitute
  • 2/3 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2 Tbsp. orange juice concentrate
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped pecans (optional)


  1. In a medium saucepan, heat milk/milk substitute and cherries over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent burning. When simmering, add oats. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until oats are cooked and liquid is absorbed, approximately 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
  2. Add orange juice concentrate and stir thoroughly. Pour into bowls and sprinkle with nuts if desired.


Maximize the vitamin C content by adding the orange juice at the very end, after cooking. This oatmeal is so sweet, you won’t even need sugar!

Makes 2 servings.

Thank you for supporting National Glaucoma Research!

Please share this newsletter with someone you know who might be interested in learning about some of the latest advancements in research to diagnose, prevent, treat, and cure glaucoma. This newsletter is published by National Glaucoma Research, a program of BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit organization located at 22512 Gateway Center Drive, Clarksburg, Maryland 20871, 301-948-3244, The information in National Glaucoma Research Report is provided as a public service and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified health care professional, nor is it intended to constitute medical advice. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy. Copies of the National Glaucoma Research Report are available upon request.