Combining genetics and drug development to tackle glaucoma 

Research area: Glaucoma
Aims and objectives

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness and affects over 70 million people worldwide. Surgical treatments for glaucoma are effectively used to reduce eye pressure by opening up the drainage systems to allow aqueous fluid to flow normally.  A main reason why these surgical interventions stop working is because of the natural human response to heal an area damaged by surgery can cause scarring.  Scars in the area of the surgery block the drainage channels again so contributing to increasing eye pressure.   The main aim of this project is to develop a safe and effective treatment to prevent conjunctival fibrosis (scaring) in glaucoma.

Work being carried out

Anti-cancer drugs are currently used to decrease scarring but can have harmful side effects and so new treatments would be welcomed.  In a previous study, the research team have shown that there is an important group of genes that controls how badly the eye scars. Using this information and developing key collaborations with other experts, they are working to produce a targeted drug that can switch off this group of genes and thus stop scarring in the eye. Once developed, the next steps involve checking if the drug is safe to use in the eye by doing tests in the laboratory and determining the best way of getting the drug into the eye of patients. If the drug decreases scarring in the eye and does not have harmful side effects, the next goal will be to test if it works in humans in early clinical trials.

Outcomes and impact

This work is a vital first step before drugs can be taken forward for testing in future clinical trials. A safe and effective drug to prevent fibrosis in the conjunctiva will benefit millions of glaucoma patients worldwide by decreasing the risk of blinding side effects from current drug treatments and significantly improving their quality of life. An effective anti-fibrotic treatment will also have an impact on policy makers and lead to significant NHS savings by decreasing the number of revision surgeries and patient follow-ups.

Research details

Full Title

Developing a safe and effective drug to block the fibrosis gene pathway in the conjunctiva

Grant holder

Professor Sir Peng Khaw, Dr Cynthia Yu Wai Man

Research Area(s)


Start date

February, 2017

Award level


Funding scheme

Project grant

Date: 13 August 2018

Grant reference: R160028A