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    Duke University researcher awarded 2016 Shaffer Prize


    Potential  RCG therapies

    Researchers should know in about four months whether adding back-specific types of immune cells was followed by increased retinal ganglion cell (RCG) axon loss and loss of vision. Once the mechanism that is responsible for RCG axon damage is known, therapies can be designed to modulate and change the immune system to prevent neuron damage, vision loss, and blindness.

    “Looking at the impact of the individual components of the immune system is a larger shift in research that is being seen across many medical specialties,” Dr. McKinnon said. “We have seen it in cancer immunology, chronic neurodegeneration–such as Alzheimer Disease and Parkinson Disease, autoimmune disorders, arthritis and more.”

    Research into the effects of the immune system on the nervous system in MS has already produced natalizumab, a monoclonal antibody. Natalizumab counteracts the neuroinflammation that is seen in MS.

    It is possible that natalizumab could be neuroprotective against RCG axon damage by reducing inflammation of the optic nerve, Dr. McKinnon said, but the agent can have serious side effects and would not be a practical treatment for glaucoma. Newer generations of current biologic agents and more targeted agents developed in the future could have fewer side effects and be more practical in treating glaucoma.

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