Channing Glaucoma Research

The Examination and Analyses of Gene-lifestyle Interactions in the Development of POAG and XFG

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common type that causes progressive vision loss, usually from the peripheral visual field (VF) and the central VF in advanced stages.

The established risk factors for glaucoma are age, family history, African heritage, and elevated intraocular pressure (IOP); of these, IOP is the only modifiable factor.

Another major type of glaucoma is exfoliation glaucoma (XFG), which is a secondary glaucoma caused by exfoliation syndrome, a systemic condition where greyish white material (exfoliation material) accumulates in various tissues.

Current Research

Investigators at the Channing Division of Network Medicine (CDNM) have built a comprehensive research strategy to:

  • Study the epidemiology (nutritional, lifestyle, and pharmacological risk factors) of POAG and XFG
  • Study the heterogeneity of POAG by identifying unique determinants of subtypes of POAG defined by IOP and VF patterns
  • Identify the metabolomic and genetic determinants of POAG and XFG


Early Channing research evaluated the association between diet, body mass index, diabetes mellitus, reproductive and hormonal factors, and POAG. Our group has also demonstrated that XFG is associated with latitude and homocysteine-related dietary factors.

Our group has collaborated in consortia that have identified novel susceptibility loci for POAG and XFG.

Early research by CDNM investigators has also addressed the nutritional, lifestyle, and hormonal risk factors for cataract extraction and age-related macular degeneration.

We apply a multidisciplinary approach to understand glaucoma etiology, heterogeneity, and pathobiology:

Epidemiologic studies of modifiable risk factors

  • Analyze modifiable risk factors, such as diet and hormonal and pharmacologic exposures, their interaction with genetics, and risk of POAG and XFG

Metabolomics and genetics

  • Collaborate with consortium researchers to identify susceptibility loci using genome-wide association studies (GWAS)
  • Analyze metabolomics of POAG and XFG

Machine-learning approaches

  • Address complex disease heterogeneity by identifying POAG subtypes defined by VF pattern
  • Identify the unique determinants of each identified POAG subtype

Study populations

Study populations in CDNM investigations include:

  • Nurses’ Health Study
  • Nurses’ Health Study II
  • Health Professionals Follow-up Study
  • Women’s Health Study

National and international collaborations

CDNM is involved in the consortia of GENEVA and NEIGHBORHOOD.