Gene Therapy Could Be a New Macular Degeneration Treatment



New macular degeneration treatments may emerge after a recent study links the wet and dry version of the disease in an unexpected way.

What is Age Related Macular Degeneration?

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of irreversible blindness and vision loss in the world and of vision impairment in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the number of Americans with macular degeneration will double from 48 million to 88 million in the next 30 years.

AMD destroys the sharp, central vision, which is necessary for seeing objects clearly and doing activities like reading and driving. There are two types of AMD. Wet AMD is treatable. Dry AMD has not had many treatment options, although its progression may be slowed by supplementation with antioxidants.

Gene Therapy Reverses AMD in Mice

A new study reveals important findings after a research team from the University of Virginia School of Medicine successfully treated age-related macular degeneration in mice.

Brad Gelfand, of University of Virginia's Center for Advanced Vision Science, discovered the absence of an enzyme called "Dicer" could initiate both forms of macular degeneration. Dicer levels reduce with age, and the loss of Dicer causes an overgrowth of blood vessels in the retina.

Using gene therapy, Gelfand and his team restored Dicer in the mice and found it reversed AMD. Gelfand's research suggests restoring normal levels of Dicer could treat both wet and dry macular degeneration. However, further testing will determine the effectiveness and safety of this new macular degeneration treatment.

"It's not as if this is the final answer to the problem, but it's certainly a big step along the way; it certainly solidifies the idea that wet and dry AMD share a lot of mechanisms," said Gelfand.

If Dicer proves effective in clinical trials, it will be the first significant treatment for dry AMD. It would also offer a simpler and less painful treatment for wet AMD. Current wet AMD treatment involves frequent eye injections. Gene therapy may require only a single treatment.

Call Your Ophthalmologist

AMD is a progressive disease that often does not have any symptoms in the early stages. You can prevent AMD by making annual appointments for a comprehensive eye exam. Eye exams are more than just an evaluation of your vision. They offer a window into your overall health. Call an ophthalmologist today to schedule your annual eye exam.