New Glaucoma Treatments May be on the Horizon

Glaucoma Eye Drops

A team of Italian researchers may have developed a new type of eye drop for glaucoma treatment, according to an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Researchers noted that elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) in glaucoma leads to loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) as well as damage to the optic nerve.  Although IOP is controlled with medication, no treatment is currently available to restore retinal and optic nerve function.

In this new study, rats with glaucoma were treated with the eye drops containing a protein known as nerve growth factor.   When researchers determined that these drops prevented nerve degeneration in these rats, human tests were initiated on three patients with advanced glaucoma.

After three months of treatment all three participants showed improvements in visual sharpness and ability to detect contrast.  Two of the three participants showed improved visual fields, while the visual field stabilized for the third.

The team, led by Alessandro Lambiase of the University of Rome, reported that improvements were still evident three months after the treatments were finished.

SOURCE:  Experimental and clinical evidence of neuroprotection by nerve growth factor eye drops: Implications for glaucoma, Lambiase, et al, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Aug. 3, 2009.

Ultrasound Treatment for Glaucoma

Eye Tech Care, a French company, is testing a new way to treat glaucoma using ultrasound technology. The device would treat the ciliary body (the part of the eye that produces humour, the watery fluid that fills the front part of the eye) in order to decrease the amount of fluid in the eye, and, by extension, reduce the intraocular pressure within the eye.

The device has only been tested on twelve patients suffering from the rare refractory glaucoma, but if trials are successful they may begin testing it on the more common open angle glaucoma.  About 25 years ago researchers tried to use ultrasound technology to treat animals, but the technology of the time was too limited.

According to the International Glaucoma Association, which reported on this new development, ultrasound treatment for glaucoma would be quicker and less invasive than the current Argon laser procedures currently used to treat the disease.