Newswise — On October 15th, 33 scientists and glaucoma clinicians from research institutions throughout the US and from Canada, Australia, Sweden, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Germany gathered in person and virtually in New York to participate in The Glaucoma Foundation’s 27th Annual Scientific Think Tank, this year focusing on “New Vistas in Glaucoma Research.” 

During the Think Tank the Dr. Robert Ritch Award for Excellence and Innovation in Glaucoma was presented to Dr. Robert N. Weinreb. Created in 2008, the award recognizes the contributions of individuals who have played a significant and unique role in promoting the medicine and science of glaucoma. It is named to honor Dr. Robert Ritch, founder of TGF and its Medical Director. 

Dr. Weinreb, clinician, surgeon and scientist, is Distinguished Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at the University of California San Diego, where he is also the Director of the Shiley Eye Institute and the Hamilton Glaucoma Center and holder of the Morris Gleich MD Chair in Glaucoma.  “Said Elena Sturman, TGF President and CEO, “Dr. Weinreb’s career has impressively impacted multiple areas of glaucoma research and clinical progress worldwide. We congratulate him on his many achievements.” 

In recent years, the Think Tank has focused on exploring exfoliation syndrome (XFS), an age-related systemic disease and the most common recognizable cause of open-angle glaucoma worldwide, comprising the majority of cases in some countries.  “We are making exciting strides,” says Dr. Ritch, a pioneer and world expert in the field. “We have significantly increased the number of people working in this disease and areas relating to it. In the last few years, research has more than tripled.

Collaboration is the key to the success of the Think Tank, which strives to create an open and effective dialogue among those attending that will lead to continued communications across disciplines and between laboratories – long after the meeting has ended. Collaborations have already advanced the understanding of exfoliation and yielded important new findings.

While the first session of this 2021 Think Tank continued its focus on exfoliation, with four papers presented, this year’s scope was broadened with later sessions on Optic Nerve Repair and Regeneration, Manipulating Retinal Ganglion Cells and Genetics and Genomics.

 Several novel approaches were presented. In a paper on Insulin Signaling and Restoration of Retinal Circuitry, Adriana di Polo, PhD, of the University of Montreal, presented research findings supporting the critical role of insulin for dendritic regeneration, reconnection, and circuit repair in glaucoma. Other speakers summarized studies their labs are conducting using pluripotent stem cell technology to develop strategies for repairing a damaged optic nerve. 

Retinal ganglion cells are the cells that die in glaucoma, causing progressive and irreversible vision loss. Thomas V. Johnson, The Allan & Shelley Holt Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkin University, gave a special lecture on retinal ganglion cell transplantation and engraftment, reporting on research into methodologies for achieving survival and functional connectivity by transplanted human stem cell derived retinal ganglion cells following transplantation.


Register for reporter access to contact details