GRF Scientific Advisors discuss Biomarkers for Glaucoma

GRF Scientific Advisors discuss Biomarkers for Glaucoma


There is a lot of buzz around biomarkers.
And I think the reason that the board felt that this was an appropriate focus area is
that there’s been great progress in other areas of medicine in finding biomarkers. The idea of a biomarker is that it’s some
sort of a signal that someone is going to have a certain outcome. So, if you have high
cholesterol, you know you’re at a higher risk for a heart attack, for example, or if you
have high blood pressure, that’s a biomarker for having a stroke. We don’t have biomarkers
for glaucoma. You need a way of being able to quantify progression
of a disease. And that’s where you need a biomarker. In particular, to see the early
stages before you’ve actually lost vision but you know that if it carries on, you will
lose vision. That’s the goal. Trying to be able to make the diagnosis early and to quantify
progression so that you can measure the effects of an intervention. That’s the idea. So, absolutely
fundamental. And these people are doing it largely by refining imaging technology. The progress has been extraordinary. I think
the key finding that they have published already, is that they have found that there is certain
cell type in the retina, in a certain area of the retina, that may act as the so-called
“canary in the coal mine” and be the first indicator that something is going wrong in
glaucoma. And so now the group is very focused on what
it is that’s happening in that specific region of the retina. They’re applying their advanced
imaging methodologies to focus on that region of the retina, and trying to look at all the
other structures that might be involved. Because it suggests that there is something
very unique that’s happening at that point that could potentially be the “canary in
the coal mine” and tell us when things are about to go wrong before we’ve advanced to
the point where there is major vision loss. Glaucoma, in the end, is a disease of the
retinal ganglion cells – the cells in the eye that send their nerve process to the brain,
carrying information about vision. And those cells degenerate and eventually die as the
disease progresses. That’s the nature of the disease. So, there’s 20 kinds of different retinal
ganglion cells in the eye. And the question is: are they all equally susceptible? And
it turns out that there is one particular type of retinal ganglion cell called an OFF
cell that sends its processes to a particular layer in the retina that seems to be exquisitely
sensitive. And if that’s true — and there’s now evidence
from other labs as well — that’s a huge advance. Because it enables you to focus on a cell
that you know is sensitive. That you know is going to degenerate and die, and they can
see changes very early on, before anyone had seen such changes. To me, that’s a huge advance.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *