Researchers Discover Potential Mechanism That May Lead to Treatments for Glaucoma, Other Diseases

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TUCSON, Ariz.—Scientists in the University of Arizona Department of Physiology have identified a potential molecular mechanism that may hold the key to understanding how pressure is regulated in the eye. Funded by a $2.3 million five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Eye Institute, this research could help to develop future treatments for glaucoma and other diseases. Current treatments focus on lowering eye pressure with eyedrops and oral medications. However, these drugs lose their effectiveness over time. More than three million Americans suffer from glaucoma, the second-leading cause of blindness in the U.S., according to Prevent Blindness America.

In response to this major health issue, Nicholas Delamere, PhD, professor and head of the Department of Physiology at the UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson and his research team have discovered a specific “mechanosensitive ion channel,” TRPV4, which they believe senses and helps regulate pressure inside the eye.

"If the findings prove true, it means we have another piece of the puzzle on how the eye regulates. If we understand how it works properly, we get a ticket to understanding when it doesn't work and how we can prevent that," Dr. Delamere said. "Understanding these ion channels and the signaling that determines the proper regulating of fluid also could be important in understanding blood pressure regulation and the growth of cancer cells. You have a target mechanism for the development of new drugs."