Glaucoma affects more than 3 million Americans and is the second-leading cause of blindness in the United States. Surgery can treat the disease, but the success rate is low and patients often require a second operation. Now, biomedical researchers have developed a therapy that could dramatically improve the procedure's outcome.
The disease is marked by a buildup of fluid inside the eye, which exerts pressure on the optic nerve and eventually causes blindness. That pressure builds up when ducts surrounding the iris that normally drain excess fluid get blocked. Doctors treat the disease by surgically inserting an artificial tube to drain the fluid and relieve the pressure.
However, scar tissue forms and blocks the newly inserted tube in roughly one-third of all patients, rendering the treatment ineffective, says Sunil Shaunak at Imperial College London. Although doctors can reduce the scarring with medications, these drugs lead to other complications.