If you or a loved one is suffering from the common eye condition known as dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), scientists may have found a cure. Although this new therapy is still in the beginning phases, it shows great promise to help those struggling with this disease.
Researchers in Israel have been injecting various dry AMD patients with healthy cells that are capable of replacing the cells that died due to this condition. These Israeli scientists are hoping this form of treatment can halt the progression of the disease. The results from this study will determine whether or not larger trials can be organized for this treatment next year.
AMD is an eye condition that often occurs in people over the age of 50. The most common symptoms of this disease are hazy vision, new blood vessels appearing in the eyes, and increased difficulty seeing in dim areas.
Unfortunately, many people with AMD cannot see the damage done to their retinae or maculae until it is too late. AMD is currently the number one cause of irreversible blindness in the world, and an estimated half a million people in the UK and 11 million more in America are suffering from this condition.
As mentioned above, this treatment will only be available for those who have the dry form of AMD. There is also a "wet" form of AMD. Dry AMD happens when yellowish deposits, called drusen, encrust the maculae and retinae and occurs in around 80-90 percent of AMD cases.
Wet AMD, on the other hand, happens when blood vessels start to grow and bulge around the retinae and maculae. Only about 10-20 percent of AMD cases are wet, but they are always very serious.
As of today, there is no known cure for dry AMD. For wet AMD, doctors often prescribe chemicals called anti-vascular endothelial growth factors.
The team behind this new treatment strategy for dry AMD is called Cell Cure Neurosciences. These Israeli scientists made their injections out of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in their laboratory. These RPE cells occur naturally in a healthy eye and are tasked with helping remove drusen from the retinae and maculae. Some scientists speculate that the main problem for people with dry AMD is that their RPE cells have all died off.
The researchers have already given this RPE treatment to mice and it was proven to be safe and effective. A study published in Cell Stem Cell in 2009 showed that the injection actually formed a natural layer of cells in front of the mice's eyes that lasted the entirety of their lives. This injection, which is called OpRegen, consists of 500,000 RPE cells in only one shot. Doctors inject one shot of this serum into the back of the patient's eyes so the cells go straight into the retinae.
This OpRegen trial involves three different Israeli hospitals and 15 different dry AMD patients. Using a wide variety of visual tests, researchers hope to have solid data on the effectiveness of this treatment in one year's time.