Studying neurodegeneration in glaucoma with quantitative genetics and MRI
Principal Investigator: Ms Anna Leonte
Approved Research ID: 55787
Approval date: June 26th 2020
The aim of the study is to identify individuals with the eye disease glaucoma who may have an increased risk for neurodegeneration in the brain. Previous research found that glaucoma is associated with neurodegeneration the brain's visual system but also in other regions not directly related to visual function. Furthermore, it appears that Alzheimer's disease (AD) - a neurodegenerative disease affecting a large number of elderly individuals - shares pathological features with glaucoma. This may indicate that glaucoma does not only affect the eye but the brain as well. With access to the UK biobank data, we intend to identify individuals who are at a very high genetic risk for AD and glaucoma, and at a very low genetic risk. By comparing the brain structure between the high and low genetic risk group, we can estimate the degree to which genetic predispositions may influence the occurrence of neurodegeneration in individuals with glaucoma. We expect the project to last up to 36 months as two (very different) types of datasets (MRI and genetic data) of a vast number of individuals are analyzed. By 2040, the number of glaucoma cases is estimated to be 111.8 million. The disease is a leading cause of irreversible blindness and current treatment is insufficient to stop progression. This may be due to the involvement of the brain. With our research, we hope to provide a method that will help in the identification of individuals with glaucoma who may be a risk for neurodegeneration. This will greatly benefit the developmental and implementation processes of future neuroprotective strategies.