News Release

New research aims to develop novel therapeutic for glaucoma

Grant and Award Announcement

Indiana University School of Medicine

INDIANAPOLIS—Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine are using a novel approach to hopefully develop a new therapy for glaucoma, a complex disease that eventually leads to blindness, thanks to a new five-year, $2 million R01 grant from the National Eye Institute.

“Glaucoma is a silent, underdiagnosed, costly and debilitating disease,” said Tasneem Sharma, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology and lead investigator on the project. “It occurs when there is increased pressure within the eye and progressive death or neurons in the back of the eye. Current treatment options only include reducing elevated pressure in the eye, but these treatments only slow the disease rather than prevent it, so patients still progress toward vision loss.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Vision Health Initiatives, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. By 2050, that number is expected to rise to 6.3 million. Glaucoma costs the U.S. economy about $2.86 billion each year in direct costs and productivity losses.

Sharma’s project, called “Therapeutic Intervention to Target Human Glaucoma Pathogenesis,” focuses on providing a foundation for developing a new glaucoma therapeutic by testing human neurons and a regenerative therapy to rescue visual neurons from dying preclinically in human eyes under glaucoma conditions. This combination has never been used before.

“It is crucial to identify therapies and develop new treatments for glaucoma that can save retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) from neurodegeneration,” Sharma said. “This grant will be instrumental in spearheading our research on validating an innovative therapeutic strategy for glaucoma. Our powerful tools and valuable stem cell resources will have enormous potential for breakthrough discovery. It will offer a foundation for deciphering survival and regeneration of RGCs due to glaucomatous neurodegeneration.”

Sharma hopes the results of this research project will lead to new clinical trials for glaucoma patients to study the effectiveness of potential new treatments.

About IU School of Medicine

IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.

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