Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness affecting almost 80 million patients worldwide. What causes optic nerve degeneration in glaucoma is not entirely known. Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is a major risk factor for many glaucoma patients.
The existing pressure-lowering treatment may at best reduce the risk of further injury and slow down the process. But despite adequate IOP treatment, as many as 42 per cent of all glaucoma patients eventually become blind to at least one eye.
The research team, led by Associate Professor Gauti Jóhannesson at Umeå University, has been given the funds for the planning of a large national clinical randomized trial to evaluate nicotinamide (NAM; a form of vitamin B3) and how the optic nerve can be protected in glaucoma. The grant is part of the 213 MSEK awarded by the Swedish Research Council to clinical treatment research for the years 2019-2022.
Recently, NAM has been demonstrated to be low in the sera of glaucoma patients compared to healthy control subjects. Furthermore, mouse models have shown that metabolic changes in the retinal ganglion cells may be an underlying cause of glaucoma.
The research team behind the current trial has also recently shown in mouse models that NAM prevents many metabolic changes in retinal ganglion cells, thereby protecting the optic nerve.
Pete Williams. Photo: Bildmakarna
”This is a clinical trial that will focus on on evaluating nicotinamide and treating the retina and optic nerve not by targeting IOP lowering. The goal is to find a new, effective and cost-effective treatment for glaucoma. The grant from the Swedish Research Council is an important recognition and shows that clinical research within the area at St. Erik Eye Hospital and Karolinska Institutet is at the forefront,” Pete Williams says.