Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, might be close to finding a drug that could cure glaucoma, which is the world’s second-leading cause of blindness. Karsten Gronert, a professor of optometry, says it has been a long process of trial and error.

"With decades worth of research there have been several approaches to try to develop neuroprotective drugs that somehow can stop once you see neurodegenerartion. And there have been several approaches and none of them actually were able to stop the progression of neurodegeneration."

But Gronert discovered that astrocytes - cells in the eye retina - produce lipid signals that protect nerves from damage. And when the eye is stressed, the astrocytes stop making the protective signal.

"It was an unexpected finding. This means it has some unknown role with nerves that we were not aware of."

So, if researchers can find a way to protect astrocytes, they might get on the right track to fight glaucoma.

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