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Australian study solves glaucoma mystery

09/05/2018By Matthew Woodley • Staff Journalist
An Australian study has developed a method that allows observable damage to the optic nerve caused by glaucoma to be accurately and directly linked to vision loss.

For the first time, scientists from the Centre for Eye Health and the University of New South Wales’ School of Optometry and Vision Science have established a model that can accurately predict changes in ganglion cells that occur with age or with the disease, and correlate them with functional loss.


“By developing better models to describe both functional and structural changes in the ganglion cell layer of the retina, we were able to consolidate our theoretical understanding of retinal changes occurring with age and with disease.”
Professor Michael Kalloniatis, Centre for Eye Health

Previous efforts to link the two have confounded clinicians and researchers alike, as some cases present no detectable loss of vision despite obvious damage to the optic nerve. According to the team, this is contrary to theoretical work that suggests eye structure and eye function should change at the same time.

“Neither the functional nor structural models that are currently applied in clinical practice adequately reflect our understanding of changes in retinal ganglion cells responsible for glaucomatous damage, and thus may be not be sensitive to early disease detection,” study first author and PhD candidate Mr Nayuta Yoshioka explained.

Centre for Eye Health director Professor Michael Kalloniatis added, “By developing better models to describe both functional and structural changes in the ganglion cell layer of the retina, we were able to consolidate our theoretical understanding of retinal changes occurring with age and with disease. This work has shown how they are directly related.”

The study, led by Dr Barbara Zangerl, was published recently in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science.

Image courtesy: Idaho National Laboratory

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