Glaucoma Biomarker Discovery and Pathogenetics
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damages the optic nerve and result in blindness if left untreated. The most common form is primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). POAG affects over 3 million Americans, a majority of whom do not know they have it. There is currently no cure for glaucoma. We believe that molecular markers exist in the blood of individuals susceptible to developing glaucoma. These molecules are small fragments of proteins that arise from breakdown of proteins during normal cellular functions in the body. Sometimes the levels of certain molecules in the blood change when a person gets sick. The identification of these molecular markers or 'biomarkers' will let doctors identify those at risk before clinical evidence of the disease. More importantly, these biomarkers could lead to new therapies for glaucoma. We will use instruments known as mass spectrometers to identify biomarkers in blood samples from individuals with POAG. These biomarkers will be analyzed to ensure they are specific to glaucoma and hence useful for the development of diagnostic tests and new drugs. The long term goals of our research are to develop 1) a blood test for early detection and 2) new treatments for this debilitating disease.