Glaucoma and optic nerve repair.

Department of Neurology, Experimental Neurology, Heinrich Heine University, Merowingerplatz 1a, 40225, Düsseldorf, Germany.
Cell and Tissue Research (Impact Factor: 3.68). 03/2013; DOI: 10.1007/s00441-013-1596-8
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide and causes progressive visual impairment attributable to the dysfunction and death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Progression of visual field damage is slow and typically painless. Thus, glaucoma is often diagnosed after a substantial percentage of RGCs has been damaged. To date, clinical interventions are mainly restricted to the reduction of intraocular pressure (IOP), one of the major risk factors for this disease. However, the lowering of IOP is often insufficient to halt or reverse the progress of visual loss, underlining the need for the development of alternative treatment strategies. Several lines of evidence suggest that axonal damage of RGCs occurs primary at the optic nerve head, where axons appear to be most vulnerable. Axonal injury leads to the functional loss of RGCs and subsequently induces the death of the neurons. However, the detailed molecular mechanism(s) underlying IOP-induced optic nerve injury remain poorly understood. Moreover, whether glaucoma pathophysiology is primarily axonal, glial, or vascular remains unclear. Therefore, protective strategies to prevent further axonal and subsequent soma degeneration are of great importance to limit the progression of sight loss. In addition, strategies that stimulate injured RGCs to regenerate and reconnect axons with their central targets are necessary for functional restoration. The present review provides an overview of the context of glaucoma pathogenesis and surveys recent findings regarding potential strategies for axonal regeneration of RGCs and optic nerve repair, focusing on the role of cytokines and their downstream signaling pathways.

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May 21, 2014