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Saving sight. Changing lives.

Glaucoma Research

Affiliated with the University of MelbourneUniversity of Melbourne Logo

Lead Researcher: Professor Jonathan Crowston

CERA’s Glaucoma Research program combines basic science and clinical research to translate research in glaucoma from the cell and molecular level through to animal models and clinical trials. Our basic work aims to increase understanding of the role of ageing in glaucoma and from this to develop new therapeutic targets. We have particular interest and expertise in mitochondrial dysfunction, which is where the energy producers in the cells fail to work properly. Our clinical work aims to improve glaucoma diagnosis and optimise patient management by improving the delivery of current treatments and translating new therapies into clinical practice.

Current Research

The effect of ageing on the optic nerve

We are conducting basic research to discover why ageing predisposes the optic nerve to degeneration in glaucoma. We have recently shown that aged mice show greater optic nerve dysfunction and oxidative stress compared to young mice, after an optic nerve injury. However, if the aged mice are put on a calorie restricted diet, the optic nerve dysfunction and oxidative stress are significantly reduced. We are now trying to find ways to mimic calorie restriction and tap into the same biochemical pathways to protect the optic nerve.. Our group is also looking at the effects of exercise on these processes.

Our research suggests that the mitochondria – the batteries that supply the cells with energy – play a critical role in the neurodegenerative diseases, including glaucoma. We are trying to find out if optimal mitochondrial function is a common benefit of both restrained diet and increased activity, and whether this can bolster the resistance of older optic nerves to stress.

We are also looking at how the mitochondrial function plays a role in diseases such as Autosomal Dominant Optic Atrophy (ADOA) and Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy. Mitochondria in these patients work less efficiently and these differences may be related to the severity of vision loss. We hope to better understand how the mitochondria overcome the genetic impairments in some patients so that we can develop novel therapeutics to prevent vision loss in at-risk patients.

Glaucoma surgery wound healing

Our surgical researchers are looking at the effect of fluid biomechanics on ocular wound healing. Using an engineering-based approach, we are investigating the impact of mechanical forces on the wound healing response to glaucoma surgery in the rabbit. The aim is to create an engineering model that predicts an “ideal” mechanical environment for limiting postoperative scar formation. This knowledge will be used to develop a new glaucoma drainage device.

Glaucoma initial treatment study

The main treatment of glaucoma involves the use of eye drops. However, drops are expensive, have considerable side effects, and impact negatively on daily living. Laser has recently been proposed as an alternative treatment and, in this project, we will investigate the effectiveness of laser compared to drops.