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New trial for Glaucoma

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Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 2:44 pm | Updated: 4:43 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

It can rob you of your sight before you even know there's a problem. In its most common form Glaucoma has virtually no symptoms and there's no cure, but a new trial is helping patients attack the condition non-stop.

Now in his seventies Kenneth Smith just renovated this bathroom. He's working on another, all while learning the banjo. But one thing threatens to put an end to Kenneth's active lifestyle. “Glaucoma."

Now, he's enrolled in a unique trial at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. "It turns out Glaucoma is a neurodegenerative disease."

Doctor Jeffrey Goldberg says vision cells degenerate during Glaucoma just like brain cells do in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. While standard glaucoma therapies focus on the front of the eye and eye pressure, he's looking at the back of the eye and its connections to the brain. He believes a molecule called CNTF could be key to a breakthrough. "It's expressed all through the eye and the brain."

To stop the progression of Glaucoma and maybe even restore vision, he's testing this device to boost CNTF in patients. "It saves us from having to inject the CNTF into the patient's eyes over and over and over again."

The implant is put in the white of the eye and contains engineered cells. "And they make the CNTF constantly and pump it into the eye."

It's been months since Kenneth got his implant and things are looking good. "Yes, I'm seeing better. It's still not 100% like I would like it to be. Looking forward to it getting better and better."

Doctor Goldberg says so far patients in the trial haven't seen any major side effects from the implant. He says the procedure takes about 15 minutes and the implant starts working right away. He believes it could deliver the possible vision saving molecule directly to the eye for a year or more.

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