Glaucoma is the world’s second-leading cause of blindness, and it affects about 80 million people worldwide and has no cure. But vision scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have discovered molecules that could probably halt the progression of the disease.

Gronert: “We identified a novel factor, a new factor that potentially protects the optic nerve against damage, which is one of the underlying causes of glaucoma.

That’s Karsten Gronert, a professor of optometry at UC Berkeley. He says, for decades, academic labs and pharmaceutical companies were trying to find treatment for glaucoma, but couldn’t show any promising results. This is probably because they were targeting the disease when it was already too late.

"Once you have a degeneration of the optic nerve head, which is what causes glaucoma and eventually leads to blindness, that process is irreversible and cannot be stopped.”

So Gronert and his colleagues took a different route. Instead of trying to fix what has been permanently damaged, they focused on prevention - protecting the mechanism that stops nerve degeneration.

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