Document Type

Plan B - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biology and Microbiology

First Advisor

Greg Heiberger


Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness, and the second leading vision loss neurodegenerative disease affecting millions worldwide. Glaucoma is characterized as a group of eye disorders which are initially asymptomatic but may progress to significant optic nerve head damage and vision loss with time. Early stages of glaucoma often go undetected, leading to irreversible damage to the optic nerve head prior to patients seeking medical care. Glaucoma leads to vision loss via death of retinal ganglion cells. Retinal ganglion cell apoptosis is thought to begin due to interference with the normal transmission of neurotrophic signals that arrive by retrograde axonal transport from target cells. The physiologic mechanism of retinal ganglion cell death still remains unknown, and currently no treatment to reverse the damage and restore vision exists. Emphasis in research has been placed on the contribution of the lamina cribrosa and the trans-laminar pressure differences in the pathophysiology of glaucoma. A growing body of evidence suggests that glaucoma occurs due to and elevated trans-laminar pressure difference (TLPD) secondary to an intraocular pressure and cerebrospinal fluid pressure imbalance. This review extensively focuses on the underlying mechanisms of axonal blockade, which interfere with neurotropic signaling at the optic nerve head. The review also explores additional mechanisms of cell death at the optic nerve head that produce optic nerve damage which mimics glaucoma. Further insight and research into these areas may lead to therapeutic reversal of this blockade and decrease the burden of glaucoma worldwide.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


Copyright © 2019 Cassidy Christopherson