Glaucoma damage reduced by rheumatoid arthritis drugs

TNF-alpha blockers could be a novel way of reducing ocular pressure in glaucoma, US researchers have found.

The drugs, commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, could be an alternative to surgery or beta-blocker eye drops currently used to reduce ocular pressure.  

For the study, mice underwent laser irradiation in one eye. The irradiation induced intraocular hypertension, a risk factor for glaucoma and resultant damage to oligodendrocytes and retinal ganglion cells.  

Levels of TNF-alpha were almost five times higher in the retinal tissue of eyes with ocular hypertension than control eyes. Ocular hypertension was also associated with elevated levels of microgilia cells, which are part of the immune defence of the eye.  

Examination of the retina showed that in eyes with induced ocular pressure, oligodendrocytes were being destroyed resulting in a progressive loss of retinal ganglion cells.  

In mice lacking genes that encode TNF-alpha or its receptor TNFR2, this process did not happen.  

Similarly, loss of oligodendrocytes and retinal ganglion cells was prevented if mice were given TNF-alpha blockers.  

The researchers concluded that TNF-alpha provides an essential link between ocular hypertension and retinal ganglion cell loss in vivo.  

Co-author of the study, Dr Joan Miller, chief of ophthalmology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, said: ‘It might be possible to put slow-release TNF-alpha inhibitors just outside the eye.’  

Concerns over the long-term effects of TNF-alpha blockers mean an alternative treatment needs to be developed.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

BMA sign

BMA sets up first-ever ‘strike fund’ to support industrial action

The BMA is about to release £2m from its reserves to pay for possible ballots on...

Dozens of GPs with suicidal thoughts contact specialist service every month

A specialist mental health service for doctors is being contacted by dozens of GPs...

GP consultation

GPs demand this summer 'matched pre-pandemic winter'

General practice needs urgent support to cope with spiralling demand after appointments...

Talking General Practice

Podcast: Looking after GP mental health at a time of crisis

We speak to Dr Helen Garr, medical director of NHS Practitioner Health, about the...

RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall (Photo: Pete Hill)

Government must take 'urgent action' on GP retention, says RCGP

GPs are being driven out of the profession by high levels of stress and burnout,...

GP surgery sign

GP workload far beyond pre-pandemic level as winter pressure looms

General practice delivered 26.5m appointments this August - 13.3% above the level...