Friend or Foe? Resolving the Impact of Glial Responses in Glaucoma

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Glaucomatous vision loss results from the progressive degeneration of optic nerve axons and the death of retinal ganglion cells. This process is accompanied by dramatic alterations in the functional properties and distribution of glial cells in both the retina and the optic nerve head in a reaction commonly referred to as glial activation. The recent availability of rodent and cell culture glaucoma models has substantially contributed to our knowledge of glial activation under glaucomatous conditions. Conclusions drawn from these studies have led to the refinement of existing hypotheses and the generation of new ones. Because these hypotheses encompass both protective and injurious roles for glia, the impact of specific aspects of glial activation are current topics of intensive research, speculation, and debate in the field. With these unresolved issues in mind, this review will summarize recent progress in our understanding of the process of glial activation in the glaucomatous optic nerve head and retina.

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