Neuroprotection as a treatment for glaucoma: pharmacological and immunological approaches

Eur J Ophthalmol. 2003 Apr;13 Suppl 3:S27-31. doi: 10.1177/112067210301303s05.


Primary open-angle glaucoma is a chronic, progressive optic neuropathy associated with a gradual decline in visual function, which may lead to blindness. In most cases, the optic neuropathy is associated with increased intraocular pressure. It is now generally accepted, however, that normalization of pressure, although necessary, is often not-sufficient as a remedial measure. This is because of the existence of additional factors, some of which emerge as a consequence of the initial damage. This situation is reminiscent of the response to a traumatic axonal insult, in which some of the damage is immediate and is caused by the insult itself, and some is secondary and is caused by a deficiency of growth-supportive factors as well as by toxic factors derived from the damaged tissue. Accordingly, the author has suggested that glaucoma may be viewed as a neurodegenerative disease and consequently amenable to any therapeutic intervention applicable to neurodegenerative diseases. There is evidence that neuroprotection can be achieved both pharmacologically and immunologically. Pharmacologic intervention neutralizes some of the effects of the nerve-derived toxic factors and possibly increases the ability of the remaining healthy neurons, at any given time, to cope with the stressful conditions. Immunologic intervention boosts the body's repair mechanisms for counteracting the toxicity of physiologic compounds acting as stress signals.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Cytoprotection / drug effects
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / complications
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / drug therapy*
  • Glaucoma, Open-Angle / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Neuroprotective Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / etiology
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / immunology
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Vaccination*


  • Autoantigens
  • Neuroprotective Agents