Science and Research

Optic nerve regeneration research

A ground-breaking and ambitious project aims to develop gene therapies and other techniques to repair the optic nerve after damage from glaucoma, ultimately restoring sight.


Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in the world. The condition involves progressive death of retinal ganglion cells in the eye, resulting in irreversible visual loss. Our researchers are devoted to understanding the mechanisms of optic nerve damage in glaucoma, to develop methods to slow the progression of the disease and ultimately to restore vision to those who have lost it. A gene therapy for advanced glaucoma previously developed by Professor Keith Martin and his team is currently in advanced pre-clinical development prior to planned human clinical trials. The team is currently investigating the potential of gene therapy and a variety of other strategies to enhance optic nerve regeneration.

Why this research is important

For the large numbers of individuals already blind or severely visually impaired due to glaucoma, conventional treatment offers no chance of visual improvement. This highlights a pressing need for new therapies directed at repairing the optic nerve.

In addition, there are many other examples of optic nerve pathologies, including optic nerve trauma, Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy and ischaemic optic neuropathy, where no currently available treatment can improve vision once it has been lost. Thus, the clinical need for new techniques of optic nerve restoration is indisputable.

Key research questions

  • Can gene therapy be used to treat patients with glaucoma whose vision is deteriorating despite conventional treatment to lower the eye pressure?
  • Can we regenerate the damaged optic nerve to achieve useful restoration of vision?