• By Dana Sparks

Discovery’s Edge: A full-court press on understanding and preventing glaucoma

June 20, 2017

medical illustration for Discovery's Edge depicting an eye with glaucoma
A lifelong basketball player and coach who tops out at 6 feet 6 inches, Michael P. Fautsch, Ph.D., understands the importance of applying pressure defense to his research on glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness worldwide. With his colleagues in Mayo Clinic’s Department of Ophthalmology, Dr. Fautsch is pressing the attack on glaucoma from all angles, investigating the cellular, molecular and anatomical underpinnings of the disease.

At the same time, Dr. Fautsch is developing a new class of compounds that both lowers intraocular pressure and helps protect the tissues of the eye from further damage.

“This could be the first drug class that has a dual role,” he says. “It could really be a huge advance in treatment.”

Nearly 4 million people in the United States have glaucoma, the National Eye Institute estimates, yet the last new Food and Drug Administration-approved drug for glaucoma hit the market in 2001.

Because some drugs don’t work well for every patient, Dr. Fautsch wants to remedy the lack of treatment options. The first hurdle, however, is developing a better understanding of glaucoma itself.

In the most common form of glaucoma, the eye’s drainage canal — the trabecular meshwork—becomes less efficient, causing an increase in internal (intraocular) eye pressure. If not treated, the increased pressure can damage the optic nerve, causing irreversible blindness. Read the rest of the article.
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