Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in people 60 and older.
Patients with AMD have to undergo frequent injections into their eye, which can be painful and comes with some risks.
They have to come to the eye doctor once a month or every other month. A lot of these people can’t drive. So it’s a huge burden.
In a recent study from the University of Virginia and elsewhere, researchers have successfully treated AMD in mice after finding an unexpected link between the two main forms of the blinding eye disease.
The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. One author is researcher Brad Gelfand, Ph.D.
The new discovery links the “dry” and “wet” forms of macular degeneration in a surprising way.
The team has focused primarily on the more common, and currently untreatable, dry form.
But after making a discovery about dry AMD, they went on to determine that the finding held true for wet AMD as well.
They found that the absence of a particular enzyme could drive both forms of AMD.
The enzyme, called Dicer, is lost with age, and that loss leads to an overgrowth of blood vessels in the retina and other damage.
The team was able to restore the enzyme in mice by adapting a form of gene therapy already used to treat other eye diseases in people.
Their work suggests that a similar approach could treat both forms of AMD, but much more testing will need to be done to determine a potential treatment’s safety and effectiveness.
If successful, though, it would be the first treatment for dry age-related macular degeneration and could significantly improve treatment for wet AMD.
The team cautions that his team is far from being able to use the approach in patients with AMD, but he is excited about the potential it holds.
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