Although medicine and surgery that lowers intraocular pressure (IOP) are proven therapies for glaucoma, neither approach is fully effective in all patients. The initial site of damage caused by increased IOP is the region where unmyelinated axons of the retinal ganglion cells pass through the optic nerve head before becoming myelinated. In Translational Vision Science and Technology, Dai and coworkers1 present evidence that transplantation of autologous olfactory ensheathing cells into the optic nerve head provides a degree of protection of the optic nerve against induced ocular hypertension in a rat model. Previously, Dai and coworkers2 showed that the rat optic nerve head contains a population of specialized astrocytes that gives it mechanical strength (perhaps analogous to our lamina cribrosa) and provides metabolic support to the ganglion cell axons. Damage to this population of astrocytes is the primary event associated with raised IOP.
Zarbin M. Cell-Based Therapy for Glaucomatous Optic Nerve Degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol. 2012;130(10):1322. doi:10.1001/2012.jamaophthalmol.252