New examinations of the optic nerve of mice have yielded new insight into the development of glaucoma. Scientists better understand both the cellular and molecular structure of this part of the eye, a discovery that will pave the way for a better understanding of the human eye. This breakthrough should hasten the development of new therapies that will help to combat the potentially devastating effects of glaucoma.
Researchers discovered a unique class of cells called astrocytes that seem to play an integral role in the development of glaucoma. They also learned more about a certain protein called gamma synuclein; abnormalities in this protein can result in eye disease. Another exciting discovery, which may influence the way science looks at a number of neurodegenerative diseases, involves the way that neurons clear away debris from the optic nerve. Essentially, the cells’ failure to clean up after themselves can lead to their own demise.