Glaucoma, the progressive condition which results in harm to the optic nerve will often cause irreversible blindness. Around one in fifty over the age of 40 years in Great Britain will be afflicted.
The risk factors associated with glaucoma include:
- a weakness in the optic nerve
- increased pressure in the eye
Now, new research using stem cells at the Moorfield Eye Hospital is hoping to provide a new potential treatment.
A patient's own stem cells were used in an experiment to aid in halving the loss of optic nerve fibres caused by the increased eye pressure by transferring olfactory ensheathing cells into the optic nerve area.
It was reported that the progression of glaucoma can be stopped by just a few treatments, including eye surgery and prescribed medications to lower the pressure in the eye. A previous report had indicated that nerve growth factors within eye drops could stop the symptoms of glaucoma.
Unfortunately, the progression towards blindness cannot be prevented in a high number of patients.
It is hoped that in the future just a simple surgical procedure, using cells from the patient, could direct scientists to a future technique that could stop the long term outcome of glaucoma.
The research now needs to be progressed to a clinical trial to be proved safe for patient use.