A team of researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine has partnered with mathematicians in order to develop a mathematical modelling method to analyse glaucoma.
The team, led by Drs Giovanna Guidoboni, associate professor of mathematics in the School of Science, and Alon Harris, professor of ophthalmology and director of clinical research at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute, is attempting to understand what actually causes glaucoma.
Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the world, yet the only primary form of treatment is to reduce pressure in the patient’s eye. However, around one in three glaucoma patients do not have elevated eye pressure.
Current inability to better understand what risk factors lead to the disease can hinder treatment options. Through understanding exactly what causes glaucoma, the team is hoping that it will be able to find a more effective and far-reaching cure.
Mathematical modelling, which creates an abstract model using mathematical language to describe the behaviour of a system, allows doctors to better measure things like blood flow and oxygen levels in fine detail in the eye.
Through mathematical modelling, no actual patients need undergo invasive surgery. Models also can be used to estimate what cannot be measured directly, such as the pressure in the ocular vessels.
Using this method, the team is hoping to determine the cause and effect of reduced blood flow, cell death and ocular pressure and how those risk factors affect one another in the presence of glaucoma.
Mr Harris commented: "This is a unique, fresh approach to research and treatment. "We're talking about the ability to identify tailor-made treatments for individual patients for diseases that are multi-factorial and where it’s difficult to isolate the path and physicality of the disease."
This research could translate to more efficient treatments for diseases like diabetes and hypertension as well.
The research has so far been published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology and is currently under review in the Journal of Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering and the European Journal of Ophthalmology.