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    Duke University researcher awarded 2016 Shaffer Prize


    Looking into B cells

    Other laboratories have looked into the role of B cells, a key component of the immune system, for evidence of specific antibodies or antibody profiles that might allow clinicians to diagnose glaucoma even before the appearance of elevated IOP that is associated with the progression of most types of glaucoma. This is the first systematic attempt to identify other types of immune cells, including T cells and macrophages, which may play a role in the development and progression of glaucoma.

    The ultimate goal of the research project, Dr. McKinnon said, is to understand the biological mechanisms that either damage axons in the optic nerve so they are unable to carry visual information to the brain or allow axons to be progressively damaged and vision lost.

    “If we can understand the mechanism that underlies neurodegeneration, it is just a matter of time until pharmacology and technology catches up to develop an agent that is neuroprotective,” he said. “We have already seen work in multiple sclerosis (MS).”

    Dr. McKinnon’s project uses a strain of mice (Rag1 knockout mice) that have been bred to be immune-deficient. They lack certain types of immune cells called lymphocytes that are normally found in the blood stream. The type main types of lymphocytes are B cells and T cells.

    Earlier work showed that the lack of lymphocytes in these Rag1 mice is strongly neuroprotective against glaucoma even when the mice have chronically elevated IOP. Similar mice that are not immune-deficient develop glaucoma and lose vision when they have similarly elevated IOP.

    Researchers have isolated B cells and T cells and transferred them back into the immune-deficient Rag1 knockout mice. Some mice received B cells, some received CD4+ T cells, some received CD8+ T cells and some have been left immune-deficient. The mice were then subjected to increased IOP.

    Potential RCG therapies

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