— Coral Gables — A six-year collaboration between two faculty members at the Miller School of Medicine’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute has yielded new insight into the regulation of intraocular pressure in glaucoma--an irreversible disease that causes progressive visual impairment due to optic nerve damage and is the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Published April 4 in the Public Library of Science’s PLoS ONE online journal, the study , "Cochlin, Intraocular Pressure Regulation and Mechanosensing," by Richard K. Lee and Sanjoy Bhattacharya, both associate professors of ophthalmology, validates their hypothesis that the response of aqueous humor (fluid produced in the eye) to mechanical stimuli at the cellular level (mechanosensing) impacts the regulation of intraocular pressure through cells, converting that stimuli into chemical activity (mechanotransduction).
At the center of this breakthrough lies the protein cochlin, which was discovered in the trabecular meshwork seven years ago using highly sensitive mass spectrometry. The trabecular meshwork refers to tissue located around the base of the cornea that is responsible for filtering and draining aqueous humor from the eye and controlling intraocular pressure (IOP).
Mass spectrometry is a technique used to identify proteins and to determine their amino acid sequence with great precision and can also ascertain if a protein has been modified. Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is one of only a few eye centers in the nation to have its own mass spectrometer. Two such cutting-edge machines are now part of Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s Adrienne Arsht Hope for Vision Retinal Degeneration Research Laboratory, which was established with a $1 million gift from philanthropist Adrienne Arsht in 2008.
"With elevated IOP being the primary modifiable risk factor affecting the development and progression of glaucoma, this advancement opens up potential avenues for effective and innovative manipulation of the pathway of aqueous outflow using mechanosensors and mechanotransducers," Lee said. "In turn, it could lead to meaningful intervention strategies."
Currently, the primary treatment for glaucoma is to lower intraocular pressure through the topical use of medications or eye surgery.
Additionally, Bhattacharya and Lee found that mechanosensing of fluid flow is transduced, or converted into chemical signals, by TREK-1 mechanotransducers on the cell surface.