Newswise — San Francisco, June 11, 2024 — Newly published research, described in the May 23, 2024, issue of Cell, could one day lead to new therapies for diseases that are related to impaired blood flow in the eyes and brain. The research was made possible through the Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative (CFC3) funded by Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF).

Xin Duan, PhD's laboratory at University of California San Francisco collaborated with Yang Hu, MD, PhD, a fellow CFC3 researcher, and his team of scientists at Stanford Ophthalmology on this study. The CFC3 team, which also includes Anna La Torre, PhD (UC Davis) and Derek Welsbie, MD, PhD (UC San Diego), is examining the relationship between ocular blood flow and the progression of glaucoma.

The research report, from Xin Duan, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology at UC San Francisco, on how neurons build a 3-D vascular structure to keep the retina healthy, could have the following potential impacts on neurodegenerative diseases.

New Therapies: The discovery of a new type of neuron that guides the formation of the intricate lattice of blood vessels in the retina could lead to the development of new therapies for diseases related to impaired blood flow in the eyes and brain, such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and stroke.

Repairing Damaged Blood Vessels: The research brings us closer to the possibility of repairing damaged blood vessels in the retina when they weren’t built correctly in the first place. This could potentially help in treating neurodegenerative diseases that are associated with impaired blood flow.

Role in Multiple Neurodegenerative Diseases: The fact that the same lattice pattern is seen in the brain suggests that damage to this lattice structure might have a role in multiple neurodegenerative diseases. Understanding and potentially repairing this lattice could have a significant impact on the treatment and prevention of such diseases.

Protecting Neurons: The research could inspire new ways of treating neurodegenerative diseases by ensuring that neurons, which require a lot of energy, maintain a healthy blood supply. This could help protect neurons from degradation and vulnerability to glaucoma or stroke-like injuries.

“There are lots of people trying to understand the ways we can grow neurons,” Dr. Duan said. “But how in the world do we grow the intricate networks of blood vessels required to support them? That’s the question we’re trying to answer.”

It is important to note that while the research provides insights into the potential impact on neurodegenerative diseases, further studies and clinical trials would be needed to fully understand and validate these potential impacts.

Glaucoma Research Foundation’s Catalyst for a Cure

GRF’s first Catalyst for a Cure consortium (CFC1) helped redefine glaucoma as a neurodegenerative disease, in the same family as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The goals of the Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative (CFC3) are to preserve and repair the optic nerve, independent of eye pressure, and to rebuild the optic nerve where glaucomatous damage has already resulted in vision loss. Simultaneously, GRF's CFC4 research team is exploring similarities and differences among glaucoma and other neurodegenerative conditions, in search of potential preventive measures and cures for all neurodegenerative illnesses.

About Glaucoma Research Foundation

Founded in San Francisco in 1978, Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF) is America’s oldest and most experienced institution dedicated solely to its mission: to cure glaucoma and restore vision through innovative research. GRF has a proven track record of ground-breaking, results-oriented research and produces definitive educational materials used by eye care professionals across the country. The Glaucoma Research Foundation website,, provides valuable information about glaucoma to millions of visitors annually.

Journal Link: Cell