NEI funds WordingerA€AsAgs glaucoma research

August 1, 2002

Robert Wordinger, PhD, head of the division of cell biology and genetics and associate professor in the department of pathology and anatomy, has received a grant for $852,000 from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.The title of his grant is â??Glaucoma, Neurotrophins, and the Human Lamina Cribrosa.â? The grant will fund the research project for the next three years.

People who suffer from glaucoma may have increased pressure within the eye. This pressure eventually damages the optic nerve, causing blindness. Dr. Wordinger will study the role of the growth factor neurotrophin and whether it helps protect optic nerve cells from the increased pressure. Most of the damage from glaucoma occurs within the lamina cribosa region of the optic nerve head, a framework of tissue at the back of the eye through which millions of retinal ganglion cell axons exit the eye and form the optic nerve.

Currently, glaucoma is treated three different ways, depending on the severity of the disease. Each treatment works to affect the constant flow of ocular fluid, called aqueous humor, into or out of the eye. It is the build up of this fluid that increases the pressure within the eye. The majority of patients use eye drops to decrease the flow into the eye, thus lowering the pressure. If eye drops are not effective, a patient may undergo laser surgery to increase the amount of fluid that can exit the eye. The third treatment, for patients with the most severe glaucoma, involves more intensive surgery to address the outflow of fluid.

Dr. Wordingerâ??s research findings could eventually lead to new treatments that improve the drainage of ocular fluid without surgery or save retinal ganglion cells from dying.â??Right now, patients have to undergo surgery to increase the amount of fluid draining from the eye,â? he said. â??Iâ??m hopeful that this research will help us keep the eyeâ??s natural drain clear by unclogging it, if you will.â?

Dr. Wordingerâ??s research focuses on growth factors such as neurotrophins. He originally worked in the area of reproductive biology, but a family history of glaucoma sparked an interest in the disease. He has focused on this area of research for eight years.

Research associate Rajnee Agarwal works with Dr. Wordinger, as do doctoral students Xiaochun Liu, Tara Tovar, Samrat Das and John Fuller.Four other organizations provided seed funding for this research. Alcon Research, Ltd., Glaucoma Foundation, Glaucoma Research Fund and the American Health Assistance Foundationâ??s National Glaucoma Program have supported Wordingerâ??s research.


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