Fighting Glaucoma With An Enzyme, Not A Scalpel

Two percent of adults are afflicted by glaucoma--the buildup of fluid pressure in the eye which can lead to blindness. Treatment with drugs or lasers often fails. Also, surgery may cause complications, including cataracts, infection, and blindness. Now, an enzyme may replace the surgeon's knife and some of the risks in a treatment developed at Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel.

Scientists developed a tiny plastic disk containing an enzyme that destroys collagen, a basic component of the hard coat of the eye. The disk is glued on the eye for a few hours while the enzyme thins the coating so that trapped fluid can drain out. Results in rabbits look promising and the effects persisted longer than after surgery. Weizmann scientists believe the procedure could be repeated without the increased risks associated with a second round of conventional surgery. If coming human trials at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco prove successful, the technique might one day be used right in the ophthalmologist's office.

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