Researchers have started an investigation into whether a naturally occurring protein in the body could be used to prevent glaucoma-related sight loss.

A neuroprotective agent called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) has been explored to find out if it can be released in a controlled way from the blood when stimulated with ultrasound.

The Cardiff University study has been funded by Fight for Sight in partnership with the Spectacle Makers’ Charity and Glaucoma UK.

Dr Andrew Want, lead researcher at Cardiff University, said: ‘We want to take the benefits of BDNF seen in prior work closer to a viable clinical treatment by addressing several of the difficulties in delivery and dose control.

‘As ultrasound equipment is already widely used in eye clinics, if our experiment is successful, this would ensure a quick, safe and cost effective route to delivering this treatment in the clinics.’

Researchers would use a genetic model in the lab to determine the optimal exposure times and frequency of ultrasound needed for BDNF.

Over a four-week period they would monitor the eye pressure levels of a glaucoma model and give intermittent ultrasound treatments to determine if the BDNF reduced the degeneration of retinal ganglion cells seen in glaucoma, demonstrating the ability of this treatment to protect these cells.