Qs & As about Research Reprinted from Our Newsletters
Can you provide an update on the status of stem cell treatment for glaucoma?
Stem cell research is in its infancy and encompasses a broad area of the eye. There are no approved stem cell therapies to treat any eye disorders at this time.
In glaucoma, researchers are looking at stem cells to restore the trabecular meshwork and retinal ganglion cells. So far, this research has been in animal studies only.
It is very difficult to reproduce stem cells that will grow along the glaucoma-damaged optic nerve from the eye back to the brain and go to the exact location in the brain where they will function and restore sight. This type of research is many years away.
Is stem cell research having positive implications for people with glaucoma? Are any stem cell trials taking place?
Stem cell research is still in its infancy in glaucoma. Target areas in the eye include repairing the internal drain of the eye or the area that helps you see in the retina. There are no known human trials using stem cells for glaucoma presently.
Are any ophthalmologists in Toronto using stem cells to treat patients for open-angle glaucoma?
No. Many experimental studies are underway, but they are still in animal trials.
I have advanced glaucoma and have been searching for innovative therapies. One in Germany uses electric therapy to restore eye nerve damage. Does this work? What about stem cell therapy? I am willing to participate in research trials if you know of any.
The German study using electric therapy was small, showed some promise, but has not been replicated in a larger clinical trial. I do not recommend this therapy at present.
Right now, there are no clinical trials for stem cells and glaucoma. This research is in its infancy. Some patients had stem cells injected in their eyes in the U.S. and lost their eyesight completely due to complications.
I recommend that you maintain compliance with your medications and keep regularly scheduled appointments.
I read about a study using alternating current stimulation to the brain to partially restore vision in patients with glaucoma and optic nerve damage. When will this treatment be available in Canada?
Although the study is promising, more research is needed to further explore the mechanisms of action including determining how long the stimulation lasts, the need for re-treatments for maintenance therapy, and reproducibility on a large scale.
Has any research been done on the role of apoptosis in the development of glaucoma?
Apoptosis, programmed cell dying, does play a large role in glaucoma. Numerous ongoing studies in this area are looking at ways of preventing and detecting apoptosis.