Researchers want to know if the powerful pain medicine (+)–pentazocine can help avoid the damage from glaucoma.
Their focus is astrocytes that normally nourish and protect retinal ganglion cells, at the juncture where the optic nerve sends visual information to the brain so we can see. Glaucoma appears to change the relationship between these two brain cell types so that astrocytes move from supportive to destructive mode.
“The theory is that in glaucoma, astrocytes (which normally nourish and protect the retina), become toxic to neurons,” said Dr. Kathryn Bollinger, glaucoma specialist at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.
The research team has evidence that treatment with (+)–pentazocine calms the astrocytes, prompting them to release brain–derived neurotrophic factor, known to promote healthy survival of neurons.