A new study published online in Ophthalmology reveals that laboratory tests could detect signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in patients’ blood. The new technique, developed by researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, can identify specific blood profiles associated with AMD.
AMD is deterioration of the retina that can progress to loss of central vision. It is a leading cause of blindness in developed countries. In the United States, AMD affects 5 percent of men and women age 65 and older. As the global population increases, the prevalence of AMD is expected to increase as well.
Metabolomics and AMD
The research team used metabolomics, a technique which examines small particles in the body called metabolites. These particles can reveal information about genes and environment, as well as the presence of diseases.
The team compared blood samples from 90 participants with varying stages of AMD. They discovered 87 metabolites that differed in subjects with AMD and those without AMD. Researchers were also able to distinguish differences among blood profiles for each stage of AMD.
The Future of AMD Treatment
Currently, there are no tests to accurately identify who is at risk for AMD. However, researchers are hoping that the results of this study could help diagnose AMD earlier, as well as improve AMD treatment.
Co-author of the study, Joan W. Miller, M.D., is Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital and is the Chair of Ophthalmology and the David Glendenning Cogan Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Miller is optimistic about the future of AMD therapy. She said, “Because the signs and symptoms of early stage AMD are very subtle, with visual symptoms only becoming apparent at more advanced stages of the disease, identification of biomarkers in human blood plasma may allow us to better understand the early to intermediate stages of AMD so we may intervene sooner, and ultimately provide better care” (source: Science Daily).