Glaucoma: Seeing the Light at the End of the (Nano)Tunnel

  • March 15, 2022


At
 the lab of Dr. Adriana Di Polo at the University of Montreal, researchers are paving the way for the development of  ttherapeutic approaches to protect pericytes and their nanotubes. The goal?  Restoring vascular health and vision in glaucoma.

In living animals, as in humans, the retina uses the oxygen and nutrients contained in the blood to function properly. This vital exchange takes place through capillaries, the thinnest blood vessels in all organs of the body. Pericytes are small cells that wrap around capillaries. A pericyte can control the amount of blood passing through a single capillary simply by squeezing and releasing it.

In this webinar, Dr. Di Polo will present new findings from her laboratory demonstrating the critical role that pericytes play in vascular dysfunction in glaucoma. A key discovery is that inter-pericyte tunnelling nanotubes, thin nanotubes by which pericytes communicate with each other, are damaged in glaucomatous eyes contributing to the death of retinal neurons. Strategies that restore calcium equilibrium in pericytes are effective to rescue vascular function and promote neuroprotection. This work paves the way for the development of therapeutic approaches to protect pericytes and their nanotubes with the goal of restoring vascular health and vision in glaucoma.

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About Dr. Di Polo

Dr. Di Polo is a Full Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience and Ophthalmology at the University of Montreal and currently holds a Canada Research Chair in glaucoma and age-related neurodegeneration. She completed her Bachelor of Science in biology from the Universidad Central de Venezuela (Caracas, Venezuela) and her Doctorate in physiology from the University of California (Los Angeles, USA). Dr. Di Polo then pursued postdoctoral training at the Center for Research in Neuroscience at McGill University (Quebec, Canada).

In 2000, Dr. Di Polo became faculty at the University of Montreal, where she studies mechanisms of retinal ganglion cell loss as well as neuroprotective and regenerative strategies for glaucoma. She has received continuous research funding throughout her career and is presently Principal Investigator on grants from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense USA, and other competitive grants and awards from non-profit organizations as well as industry.

Dr. Di Polo has received prestigious awards, including the Foundation Fighting Blindness Young Investigator Award, the 2017 Frank Stein and Paul S. May Award for Innovative Glaucoma Research, the 2019 Shaffer prize from the Glaucoma Research Foundation, and the 2020 Lewis Rudin Glaucoma Prize. She is an ARVO Gold Fellow (2019) for her contributions to the vision research community.

Dr. Di Polo serves on many executive and scientific boards, including the scientific advisory board of TGF, the NIH Audacious Goals Initiative, BrightFocus Foundation, Glaucoma Research Foundation, Canadian Association for Neuroscience (CIHR), and she is currently the Chair of the CIHR Neuroscience A panel. Dr. Di Polo is deeply committed to teaching and training vision scientists at all levels of education. She served on the Women in Eye and Vision Research (WEAVR) committee (2017-2020), which offers networking and career development support for women from all over the world training in the field of eye and vision research.

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