UA Researcher Receives $1.5 Million to Unlock Mystery of Protein Linked to Glaucoma

<p>W. Daniel Stamer, Ph.D., ... is studying the protein myocilin.</p>

UA Researcher Receives $1.5 Million to Unlock Mystery of Protein Linked to Glaucoma

Oct. 18, 2001 From: Jo Marie Gellerman, (520) 626-7301 --------------------------------------------------- TUCSON, Ariz. - A scientist at the has been awarded $1.5 million from the National Eye Institute to uncover the role of a mysterious protein linked to the most common form of glaucoma.

 

W. Daniel Stamer, Ph.D., assistant professor in the UA Department Ophthalmology, is studying the protein myocilin, which is the protein encoded by the GLC1A, the first gene linked to open-angle glaucoma. "The mystery of myocilin is not only its linkage with glaucoma, but also that it is a newly discovered protein with no known function," says Dr. Stamer.

Glaucoma most often damages vision by increasing pressure inside the eye as a result of the buildup of fluid known as the aqueous humor. In the most common form, open-angle glaucoma, fluid is unable to drain normally and ultimately exerts pressure on the optic nerve at the rear of the eye. If the pressure is not relieved over time, nerves in the retina die, peripheral vision fades and ultimately the condition progresses to complete blindness.

People who have mutations in the gene GLC1A consequently have mutations in the protein myocilin, which dramatically increases their chances of developing glaucoma, explains Dr. Stamer. Researchers believe a defective myocilin impairs the drainage of aqueous humor from the eye in these patients with glaucoma, resulting in a build-up of intraocular pressure. Parents can pass the defect to their children, along with a higher risk of developing glaucoma, he adds.

"The genetic link provides glaucoma researchers for the first time with a specific player at the molecular level involved in the pathology of glaucoma," Dr. Stamer says. "Thus, the goal of this research is to determine the pathway which myocilin functions so more effective treatments can be developed to correct for its dysfunction."

Dr. Stamer points out that although glaucoma is the No. 1 one cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness in the world, little is known about the molecular pathways of this disease. "Although more than 3 million Americans and 67 million people worldwide are estimated to have glaucoma, with early detection and more effective treatments to control intraocular pressure, the majority of those affected do not have to go blind," Dr. Stamer says.

(EDITORS PLEASE NOTE: Video and still photography opportunities are available in Dr. Stamer's laboratory.)


Oct. 18, 2001
From: Jo Marie Gellerman, (520) 626-7301
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TUCSON, Ariz. - A scientist at the University of Arizona Department of Ophthalmology has been awarded $1.5 million from the National Eye Institute to uncover the role of a mysterious protein linked to the most common form of glaucoma.