Retinal ganglion cell dendrites and glaucoma: a case of missing the wood for the trees?

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Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness that affects the dendrites, axons and cell bodies of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs). Lowering intraocular pressure is currently the mainstay of glaucoma treatment but fails to prevent visual loss in many patients. Dendrite changes in RGCs appear to be an early sign of glaucoma in experimental models and recent evidence suggests that changes in the inner plexiform layer of human glaucoma patients may be predictive of future visual loss. Strengthening dendritic connectivity has been shown to improve functional outcomes in a number of neurodegenerative diseases which share some pathological features with glaucoma. We therefore propose that better understanding of RGC dendrites could suggest new targets for glaucoma therapy, and might aid identification of patients who are most at risk of future visual loss and blindness.

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