Is Glaucoma a Brain Disease?

San Antonio – Findings from a new study published in Translational Vision Science & Technology (TVST) show the brain, not the eye, controls the cellular process that leads to glaucoma. The results may help develop treatments for one of the world’s leading causes of irreversible blindness, as well as contribute to the development of future therapies for preserving brain function in other age-related disorders like Alzheimer’s.

In the TVST paper, Refined Data Analysis Provides Clinical Evidence for Central Nervous System Control of Chronic Glaucomatous Neurodegeneration, vision scientists and ophthalmologists describe how they performed a data and symmetry analysis of 47 patients with moderate to severe glaucoma in both eyes. In glaucoma, the loss of vision in each eye appears to be haphazard. Conversely, neural damage within the brain caused by strokes or tumors produces visual field loss that is almost identical for each eye, supporting the idea that the entire degenerative process in glaucoma must occur at random in the individual eye — without brain involvement.

However, the team of investigators discovered during their analysis that as previously disabled optic nerve axons — that can lead to vision loss — recover, the remaining areas of permanent visual loss in one eye coincide with the areas that can still see in the other eye. The team found that the visual field of the two eyes fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, resulting in much better vision with both eyes open than could possibly arise by chance.

“As age and other insults to ocular health take their toll on each eye, discrete bundles of the small axons within the larger optic nerve are sacrificed so the rest of the axons can continue to carry sight information to the brain,” explains author William Eric Sponsel, MD, Professor of Vision Science at the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry. “This quiet intentional sacrifice of some wires to save the rest, when there are decreasing resources to support them all (called apoptosis), is analogous to pruning some of the limbs on a stressed fruit tree so the other branches can continue to bear healthy fruit.”

According to the researchers, the cellular process used for pruning small optic nerve axons in glaucoma is “remarkably similar to the apoptotic mechanism that operates in the brains of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.”

“The extent and statistical strength of the jigsaw effect in conserving the binocular visual field among the clinical population turned out to be remarkably strong,” said Sponsel. “The entire phenomenon appears to be under the meticulous control of the brain.”

The TVST paper is the first evidence in humans that the brain plays a part in pruning optic nerve axon cells. In a previous study, Failure of Axonal Transport Induces a Spatially Coincident Increase in Astrocyte BDNF Prior to Synapse Loss in a Central Target, a mouse model suggested the possibility that following injury to the optic nerve cells in the eye, the brain controlled a pruning of those cells at its end of the nerve. This ultimately caused the injured cells to die.

“Our basic science work has demonstrated that axons undergo functional deficits in transport at central brain sites well before any structural loss of axons,” said David J. Calkins, PhD, of the Vanderbilt Eye Institute and author of the previous study. “Indeed, we found no evidence of actual pruning of axon synapses until much, much later. Similarly, projection neurons in the brain persisted much longer, as well.”

“This is a groundbreaking advance in vision science.  This research represents a breakthrough in our understanding of glaucoma, a disease that blinds millions of people,” said Dr. Andrew Buzzelli, dean of the University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO).  “We are privileged to have Dr. Sponsel on the faculty of our institution.”

Sponsel has already seen how these findings have positively affected surgically stabilized patients who were previously worried about going blind. “When shown the complementarity of their isolated right and left eye visual fields, they become far less perplexed and more reassured,” he said. “It would be relatively straightforward to modify existing equipment to allow for the performance of simultaneous binocular visual fields in addition to standard right eye and left eye testing.”

Authors of the TVST paper suggest their findings can assist in future research with cellular processes similar to the one used for pruning small optic nerve axons in glaucoma, such as occurs in the brains of individuals affected by Alzheimer’s.

“If the brain is actively trying to maintain the best binocular field, and not just producing the jigsaw effect accidentally, that would imply some neuro-protective substance is at work preventing unwanted pruning,” said co-author of the TVST paper Ted Maddess, PhD, of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science, Australian National University. “Since glaucoma has much in common with other important neurodegenerative disorders, our research may say something generally about connections of other nerves within the brain and what controls their maintenance.”

The scope of this work will be expanded into the current UIWRSO research program, under the coordination of Dr. Richard Trevino, assistant professor and director of residency program.


CONTACT:    Margaret Garcia, associate director public relations, (210) 829-6001,

The ARVO journal Translational Vision Science & Technology is an online only, peer-reviewed journal emphasizing multidisciplinary research that bridges the gap between basic research and clinical care, available at

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include nearly 12,000 eye and vision researchers from over 80 countries. ARVO encourages and assists research, training, publication and knowledge-sharing in vision and ophthalmology.

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NISD Recognizes UIW at Outstanding Partner of the Year Awards

San Antonio – UIW Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness Director of Assessment Dr. Glenn James and UIW’s Rosenberg School of Optometry and Eye Clinic were recognized by Northside Independent School District (NISD) at the 2014 Outstanding Partner of the Year Awards Reception.  This NISD annual event recognizes NISD’s best business and community partners.

James was recognized as the 2014 Outstanding Individual at the high school level. This category recognizes an outstanding mentor or individual who works directly with students, teachers, and/or schools in a manner positively impacting student achievement. James has served on the John Jay High School Science and Engineering Academy’s Advisory Board for seven years and has promoted a positive image of the Academy at UIW and throughout the community.  In addition, James has been instrumental in securing more than $1 million in scholarships for Jay students in addition to the seven awarded by UIW totaling $40,000 each year for outstanding projects presented at the Jay Science and Engineering Fair. “James’ impact on the John Jay Science and Engineering Academy has gone far beyond his substantial personal contributions. His inspiration has caused a ripple effect that continues to mobilize other community members to support and promote student success at the Science and Engineering Academy,” said Jay Sumpter, Academy principal.

The UIW Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO) represented by Dr. James Chapman and the Essilor Vision Foundation represented by Patrick Esquerre were recognized as Outstanding Business and Community Organization Partners of the Year.  This category recognizes a business or community group working directly with students, teachers, schools on a one-time or ongoing basis. In 2013, NISD’s Student, Family, and Community Services Department partnered with UIW and the Essilor Vision Foundation to provide more than 420 students in elementary and middle school with free eye exams and free glasses. NISD students were transported to UIWRSO on Datapoint where optometry students, supervised by their professors, learned the intricacies of conducting eye exams on young children. After their eye exam the students were able to choose their glasses provided by the Essilor Vision Foundation. Pablo an elementary age student quoted Maya Angelou in his thank you note, “‘They may forget your name but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ Thank you for the glasses, from Pablo.”

CONTACT:    Margaret Garcia, associate director public relations, (210) 829-6001,

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UIW Appoints New Dean for Rosenberg School of Optometry

Photo Cutline:  Timothy A. Wingert, O.D., F.A.A.O. newly appointed dean of UIW’s Rosenberg School of Optometry.

Timothy A. Wingert, O.D., F.A.A.O. newly appointed dean of UIW’s Rosenberg School of Optometry.



San Antonio – University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) Provost Dr. Kathi Light is proud to announce the appointment of Timothy A. Wingert, O.D., F.A.A.O. as dean of UIW’s Rosenberg School of Optometry (UIWRSO). Wingert will replace Dr. Andrew Buzzelli who resigned to become the founding dean of the Kentucky College of Optometry. The transition will occur in June.

“The Rosenberg School of Optometry is a jewel at UIW and I expect that it will continue to grow in excellence under Dr. Wingert’s leadership,” said Light.

Wingert is a tenured professor and currently serves as associate dean for Academic Affairs at UIWRSO.  He came to UIWRSO in 2012 after 23 years at the University of Missouri – St. Louis, where he currently holds the position of Professor Emeritus.

Wingert is a past president of the Missouri Optometric Association and was appointed by the Missouri Governor to the state’s Children’s Vision Commission in 2008, serving as chair in 2010. In addition to being a Fellow of the American Academy of Optometry, he is a Diplomate in the Section on Public Health and Environmental Vision where he also serves as Past Chair. He is a Founder Member of the European Academy of Optometry and Optics.

The National Academies of Practice have identified Wingert as a Distinguished Scholar, where he joins nationally-recognized healthcare practitioners and scholars in developing coordinated quality healthcare. In 2005, the U.S. Department of State named Wingert a J. William Fulbright Scholar, which took him to the University of Medical Sciences in Poznan, Poland, where he taught and consulted with the Polish optometric community.  His role with the Fulbright program is ongoing, as he was name to the Fulbright’s Specialists’ Roster in 2013.  Much of his professional work has centered on access to care issues and providing optometric care to populations who need it.

Wingert is a graduate of the Illinois College of Optometry.


Contact:  Margaret Garcia, associate director of public relations, (210) 829-6001,

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UIW Press Release – May 7, 2014

Statement from UIW Chancellor Dr. Denise Doyle

The University of the Incarnate Word and Cpl. Christopher Carter were served notice of a pending civil lawsuit late yesterday by the lawyers representing the parents of deceased UIW student Robert Cameron Redus.  While the University does not seek any conflict with the Redus family, we welcome the opportunity that the lawsuit will provide to defend the efforts we make to educate and protect our students.

We are still reviewing the details of the lawsuit, but our initial review supports our belief that a court of law is the appropriate venue for experts to testify about the events that ended in the death of Cameron Redus.  By the time the lawsuit is heard in court, the investigations that have been conducted by the Alamo Heights Police Department, the Texas Rangers and the District Attorney’s office will be made public.  Anticipating litigation in this matter, we hope now that the lawsuit will bring together all of the critical pieces of information that will shed light on this tragic episode.

At this time, we are focusing on our commencement ceremonies scheduled for this weekend where we will honor all of our 2014 graduates including Cameron Redus.

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UIW Celebrates the Class of 2014

UIW GraduationSAN ANTONIO – The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) will confer degrees to graduates at two spring commencement ceremonies scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Friday, May 9 and at 2 p.m., Sunday, May 11.  The Friday ceremony will be held in the Alice P. McDermott Convocation Center on the UIW campus.  The Sunday commencement ceremony will be held in the Joe and Harry Freeman Coliseum located at 3201 E Houston St. San Antonio, TX 78219.

Commencement will also be broadcast online.  Live coverage of the events will begin 15 minutes prior to the event at

Ceremonies to be broadcast are:

  • Feik School of Pharmacy Oath and Hooding Ceremony,
    Thurs., May 8, 6 p.m., Lila Cockrell Theater, 200 E. Market St., 78205
  • Spring 2013 Commencement for professional and Ph.D. Candidates,
    Fri., May 9, 6:30 p.m., UIW’s Alice P. McDermott Convocation Center
  • Undergraduate and graduate commencement ceremony,
    Sun., May 11, 2 p.m., Joe and Harry Freeman Coliseum 78219

Friday evening’s commencement will honor graduates of the university’s Ph.D. and professional doctoral programs. The keynote speaker is Sam Witkin.

Witkin has served as executive director of Washington, D.C. – based Project Interchange for the past six years. Founded in 1982, Project Interchange is an educational institute of the American Jewish Committee that brings influential opinion leaders and policy makers to Israel for a week of intensive travel and learning. Prior to joining Project Interchange, Witkin served as national affairs director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. He is also the former president of the American Friends of Tel Aviv University, where he led all development and education activities in the United States. He spent twelve years with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, serving as southwest regional director in Texas and then senior regional director for its Southern Pacific region.

Born and raised in the Panama Canal Zone, Witkin holds a BS in Business Administration from the University of Tampa and an MBA from West Texas A&M University.

The Sunday commencement will honor students earning their bachelor’s and master’s degrees.  The 2014 Alumna of Distinction for Service in Mission, Jennifer Staubach Gates, BSN ’88 will serve as commencement speaker.

Gates, a lifelong Dallasite, was elected to her first term as a Dallas City Council Member in 2013. She currently serves as the vice chair of the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee and sits on the Public Safety Committee as well as the Arts, Culture and Libraries Committee. Gates has extensive nonprofit experience managing the $125 million annual budget for the Catholic Foundation, and serving on the Diocesan Education Endowment that awards more than $600,000 per year in education scholarships. She also serves as the chair for the Domestic Violence Taskforce, and holds regular meetings that help to bridge communication between the Dallas Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, judges, and community partners; this collaboration aims to strengthen the forces fighting to end domestic violence in Dallas.

In 1988, Gates earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Incarnate Word College, where she received the Dr. Amy Freeman Lee Award.  Upon graduation, Gates worked as a school nurse and is still a licensed Registered Nurse today.  She continues to serve the UIW community as an alumna by hosting Dallas Alumni Network events in her home and speaking on behalf of UIW at Dallas area events. She assists with Incarnate Word recruitment efforts in the Dallas area and continues to be a strong supporter of the UIW nursing program.  She has been married to John Gates for 30 years.  They have two daughters and one grandson.

A Baccalaureate Mass will be celebrated at 5 p.m., Sat., May 10 in UIW’s Alice P. McDermott Convocation Center.   Processional and recessional music will be performed by the San Antonio Pipes and Drums.

Parking will be available on the UIW campus with overflow parking at AT&T located between Allensworth & Groveland. Handicapped parking will be available in the area directly adjacent to the convocation center between the UIW Solar House and the softball field.

Commencement ceremonies are open to ticketed guests only.



Contact: Margaret Garcia, UIW associate director of public relations at (210) 829-6001, (210) 422-4052, (

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