New cause of glaucoma identified

15 September 2014

New research has identified a previously unknown cause of glaucoma, which is a leading cause of irreversible blindness.

The condition is associated with elevated pressure on the eye, which is usually caused by a blockage, but the source of this is not understood or what prevents the eye from draining the build up of fluid.

A study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), was led by a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University and determined that glaucoma appears to result from a mechanical dysfunction of endothelial cells. This thin cell is the final barrier that stops fluid entering Schlemm’s canal, and allows liquid to be drained from the eye.

During the research using human ocular cells, the team found that endothelial cells from eyes with glaucoma are stiffer than those from healthy organs. This rigidity prevents the cells from being able to deform and allow a fluid called aqueous humour to cross the endothelium and drain into Schlemm’s canal. This flow resistance causes the elevated pressure associated with glaucoma. 

Posted by Edward Bartel​

 

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