Welcome to the Libby Lab
Glaucoma is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) and is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. The major risk factors for glaucoma are advanced age and elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). Currently, the only treatment for glaucoma is reducing IOP, however, lowering IOP does not prevent vision loss in many patients. Therefore, identifying the molecular mechanisms underlying how a glaucomatous injury leads to RGC death is crucial for developing treatments for glaucoma. While the critical molecular signaling pathway(s) that leads from glaucomatous insult to RGC death is poorly defined, extensive research efforts in both glaucoma patients and animal models of glaucoma has yielded much insight into glaucomatous neurodegeneration, both at the physiologic and molecular levels. Recent molecular studies in animal models of glaucoma have supported the hypothesis that damage to RGC axons at the lamina is an important, early pathogenic event in glaucoma.
Also, there is extensive support for the role of other cells in glaucomatous pathophysiology, including astrocytes and microglia/monocytes. Unfortunately, we still lack an overall molecular understanding of the early pathological events that occur in glaucoma—and the cells that they occur in—as a result of a glaucomatous insult and how these events trigger RGC death and axon degeneration. Identifying these events will help define the critical molecular pathways that lead to glaucomatous neurodegeneration and provide new areas for therapeutic intervention. Our lab is interested in understanding both the intrinsic (axonal degeneration and somal death) and the extrinsic events (e.g. the potential involvement of monocytes, glial activation, and neurotoxic cytokines) that lead from a glaucomatous insult to RGC death and vision loss. Ultimately the laboratory is interesting in using advanced genetic and cell biological tools to investigate the multiple factors that drive neuronal dysfunction and death in age related diseases.