Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible visual loss, which has been estimated to affect 3.5% of those over 40 years old and projected to affect a total of 112 million people by 2040. Such a dramatic increase in affected patients demonstrates the need for continual improvement in the way we diagnose and treat this condition. Annexin A5 is a 36 kDa protein that is ubiquitously expressed in humans and is studied as an indicator of apoptosis in several fields. This molecule has a high calcium-dependent affinity for phosphatidylserine, a cell membrane phospholipid externalized to the outer cell membrane in early apoptosis. The DARC (Detection of Apoptosing Retinal Cells) project uses fluorescently-labelled annexin A5 to assess glaucomatous degeneration, the inherent process of which is the apoptosis of retinal ganglion cells. Furthermore, this project has conducted investigation of the retinal apoptosis in the neurodegenerative conditions of the eye and brain. In this present study, we summarized the use of annexin A5 as a marker of apoptosis in the eye. We also relayed the progress of the DARC project, developing real-time imaging of retinal ganglion cell apoptosis in vivo from the experimental models of disease and identifying mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration and its treatments, which has been applied to the first human clinical trials. DARC has potential as a biomarker in neurodegeneration, especially in the research of novel treatments, and could be a useful tool for the diagnosis and monitoring of glaucoma.
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