A world-first treatment that targets age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in its early stages, before sight is destroyed, is proving successful in patients trialled to date.
Researchers at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) are conducting a trial of a novel laser therapy aimed at stopping, or partially reversing, the progression of the sight threatening disease, AMD.
Head of Macular Research at CERA, Professor Robyn Guymer, said 14 out of the 50 patients involved in the trial have received the treatment.
“The results show that six months after receiving the treatment, the patients’ sight is improved in the treated eye,” Professor Robyn Guymer said.
In eliminating the drusen from a patient’s retina, we hope to reverse the degenerative process caused by the disease
“What’s been quite unexpected in the trials so far is that the treatment is arresting AMD progression not only in the treated eye but in the other eye as well.”
The laser treatment involves a specially designed novel laser device that delivers a controlled nanosecond dose of laser energy into the eye.
“Preliminary research shows that applying the retinal regeneration laser therapy to the affected eye can eliminate the yellow deposits, known as ‘drusen,’ which are present in the retinal tissue of people with AMD,” Professor Guymer said.
“In eliminating the drusen from a patient’s retina, we hope to reverse the degenerative process caused by the disease”.
Professor Guymer said that unlike existing AMD treatments, the laser therapy targets the disease before sight is lost.
“Presently, if a patient is diagnosed with early AMD, they’re told that nothing can be done until the disease reaches its late stages, by which time most patients have suffered irreversible vision loss,” Professor Guymer said.
“If successful, the laser therapy will be a major breakthrough in AMD treatment and will potentially benefit millions of people world-wide”.
AMD is a progressive disease affecting the central area of the retina called the macula. It’s the leading cause of vision loss in Australia with fifteen per cent of people over 50, or half a million Australians, living with the early stages of AMD.
The trial is being conducted in partnership with Ellex Research & Development Pty Ltd and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. The Victorian Government recently awarded CERA $0.54million to conduct the clinical trials through its Science Agenda Investment Fund. CERA incorporates the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Melbourne.