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Dr Vivek Gupta, Prof Stuart Graham & Dr Mehdi Mirzaei, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW

Even though primary open angle glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible vision loss the exact mechanisms that cause cellular damage and vision loss are still poorly understood.

Dr Gupta, Prof Graham and Dr Mirzaei from Macquarie University, Sydney will focus their research on better understanding the role of rexinoid and retinoid X receptors in the development of glaucoma.

“Our pilot studies have provided substantial evidence that the Retinoid X Receptors (RXR) are well expressed in the retina and the RXR network is negatively affected in glaucoma, in both human retina as well as in mouse models of glaucoma,” the researchers explained.

The research team hypothesise that the RXR network is important in maintaining the health of retinal ganglion cells. They hope that by gaining a better understanding of the biology of the retina and RXR network molecular mechanisms will lead to new therapeutic targets for glaucoma treatment.

Using an animal model, this project will look at the effects of activating and blocking RXR on healthy retina and retina affected by glaucoma. The research will also target RXR pharmacologically using endogenous rexinoid.

“Current glaucoma management is limited to lowering the IOP which we know is not enough as many patients continue to progress despite treatment. Therefore, it is extremely important to better understand mechanisms underlying RGC loss and to develop therapeutic strategies which can protect against this,” said the researchers.