National Glaucoma Research Report: Winter 2018

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In This Issue...

  • National Glaucoma Research Report: Winter 2018
    National Glaucoma Research Report: Winter 2018
    Grant Leads to New Understanding of Glaucoma

  • President’s Corner

  • Spotlight On … Darryl R. Overby, PhD

  • Ask the Expert: Glaucoma Fast Track—Investing in the Future

  • Diabetes & Glaucoma

  • How Do Clinical Trials Work?

  • New Recipe: Fruit-filled French Toast

  • Give to Honor a Loved One

Grant Leads to New Understanding of Glaucoma

Grantee Pursuing Genetic Link

Thanks to your generous support, groundbreaking science has once again come about from a researcher whose “new idea” was first funded by National Glaucoma Research, a BrightFocus Foundation program. The University of Oklahoma’s Michael Elliott, PhD, used his National Glaucoma Research award to begin investigating the gene known as CAV1 and its link to the presence of caveolae, flask-shaped pouches that open into blood vessels.

Aided by his National Glaucoma Research grant, Elliott discovered that in mice models, abnormalities in CAV1 impact mechanisms involved in the regulation of blood vessels and pressure.

The investigation of the role of caveolae in glaucoma is a relatively new research pursuit and could be a valuable drug target. Additionally, Elliott is studying a related gene of interest, CAV2. In humans, irregularities in the CAV1/2 genes are associated with higher risk of developing primary open angle glaucoma--and Elliott’s work tentatively suggests why.

More exploration is needed, and if the same interplay between CAV1/2 genes and eye drainage is found in humans (as in mice), the pathway could become a new therapeutic target. Unlike current therapies, which only treat elevated IOP, this one might attack the cause.

President’s Corner

Thank you for continuing to so generously support National Glaucoma Research to ensure that what’s learned in the laboratory can help patients as fast as possible. It’s because of generous donors, like you, that the most promising glaucoma research is able to move forward – like the breakthrough work being done by Dr. Elliott featured in our cover story.

It’s especially exciting to watch research successfully progress from what was initially a scientist’s “hunch,” refined through testing and then to have it reach the clinical trial stage. It’s in those clinical trials that standards of care for the future are often defined.

If you or someone you know is considering participating in a clinical trial, I urge you to read the article “How Do Clinical Trials Work?” on page three, which can provide a basic understanding of the phases of clinical trials. Trials are the critical final step in the research process, so finding participants is the only way toward a cure.

Thank you again for your dedication in the fight to stop glaucoma and to helping the more than 3 million Americans currently living with this devastating disease

Stacy Pagos Haller

Glaucoma Fast Track: Investing in the Future

National Glaucoma Research, a program of BrightFocus Foundation, recently held its inaugural Glaucoma Fast Track, a conference geared to foster unique collaboration among over 100 early career and veteran scientists.

“Glaucoma Fast Track is an immersive learning opportunity specifically created for scientists who are beginning or contemplating a career in glaucoma research,” said Diane Bovenkamp, PhD, BrightFocus Vice President for Scientific Affairs. “By investing in promising young vision researchers, we can accelerate the fight to find cures for glaucoma and loss of sight.”

Spotlight On ... Darryl R. Overby, PhD - An Engineer’s Perspective

Darryl Overby, of the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College, London, has been fascinated since college with biofluid mechanics. While engineers typically focus on fluid motion in pipes or plumbing, Overby has applied those principles to the human body, to understand disease.

Most recently, he has been investigating the fluid mechanics of the eye in glaucoma, looking at the mechanics of fluid drainage (the aqueous humour) in the eye’s trabecular meshwork. He believes the eye’s drainage pathway can be better targeted to more successfully lower intraocular pressure (IOP), which in turn can help prevent vision loss in glaucoma.

Overby is encouraged about the future of glaucoma research, to see promising compounds progress from “bench to bedside” and begin to treat glaucoma and vision loss. “As we learn more about the trabecular meshwork and aqueous humour dynamics in general,” says Overby, “no doubt even better and more effective vision-saving drugs will emerge.”

Diabetes and Glaucoma

People with diabetes are at risk for several types of glaucoma. Just as it’s important to control your blood sugars, blood pressure, and cholesterol for your overall health, it is important to control these factors for the health of your eyes.

Large epidemiologic studies, including the Los Angeles Latino Eye Study and the Blue Mountains Eye Study in Australia, have demonstrated that Type 2 diabetes is a risk factor for primary open-angle glaucoma. People with diabetes are at higher risk of neovascular glaucoma, in which new vessels exhibit abnormal growth. These new vessels grow on the iris and over the drainage angle, causing scar formation and a form of angle-closure glaucoma. The third type of glaucoma often associated with diabetes is steroid-induced glaucoma, which is a secondary open-angle glaucoma, a side effect caused by steroid eye drops or injection treatments.

Treatment for those with diabetes- and non-diabetes-related glaucoma is the same in most cases, and may involve medications, laser, implanting a glaucoma drainage device for immediate eye pressure control, or surgery. Prevention is key and those with diabetes should see an ophthalmologist yearly. In addition to having you check your blood sugars with a home monitoring device using a finger stick, your primary care doctor will also have your blood drawn to check your hemoglobin A1c. This number is important because it gives a sense of how good your blood sugar control has been for the last 2-3 months and is a useful number to report to your ophthalmologist. Caught early, the complications associated with diabetes can be more easily addressed.

To learn more, visit

How Do Clinical Trials Work?

As part of our ongoing series of articles about clinical trials, we will look at the three phases of clinical trials. Each has a specific purpose in determining the safety and efficacy of a treatment for use by the public.

Phase 1 Clinical Trials evaluate the safety of a drug or a treatment to determine that it is not harmful to people. This testing normally takes place with a small group of healthy volunteers, and negative effects may lead the trial sponsors to discontinue the trial.

Phase 2 Clinical Trials test the right dosage and effectiveness in treating a disease. A small group of volunteers who have the disease are assigned to different treatment groups, with each group receiving different doses. The results are then compared to control groups (trial participants who did not receive treatment). If the results show either adverse outcomes or no improvement, the trial can either be suspended or discontinued.

Phase 3 Clinical Trials test whether a treatment is safe and effective for a wide variety of people. With a larger number of volunteers, there can be many groups, especially if the treatment involves a combination of drugs or different components. Again, the results are compared to control groups. If the drug works and the trial is successful, the trial sponsor may now apply to the Food and Drug Administration for approval to manufacture and sell these new treatments, making them available to patients.

Today’s clinical trials can lead to better treatments tomorrow. For more information about clinical trials or to find one near you that you may be able to participate in, please visit

Fruit-filled French Toast Wraps

National Glaucoma Research-funded research has demonstrated the importance of a healthy lifestyle on vision disease. To help you in your pursuit of good eye health, here’s a delicious and easy recipe to try.


  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) vanilla yogurt
  • 2/3 cup sliced ripe banana
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 whole wheat tortillas (8 inches)
  • 2 teaspoons butter
  • 1-2/3 cup berries
  • 1/4 cup granola


  1. In a bowl, combine yogurt and banana. In another bowl, whisk egg, milk, and cinnamon. Dip both sides of each tortilla in egg mixture. In a skillet, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add tortilla; cook 1-2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
  2. Spoon yogurt mixture down center of tortillas; top with berries. Roll up each tortilla. If desired, top with additional yogurt, berries, and granola.

Yield: 2 servings

Give to Honor a Loved One

Making a donation to honor or remember a loved one is a thoughtful way to recognize someone special in your life. Your gift helps to ensure that your loved one’s legacy touches the lives of others by advancing important research that can provide health and hope for years to come. If you would like assistance with making an honor or memorial gift, please call us at 1-855-345-6647 or give online at

Thank you for supporting National Glaucoma Research!

Please share this newsletter with someone who might be interested in learning more 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 this newsletter are available upon request.