July 7, 2009--Professor John Marshall, a senior ophthalmologist at King's College (London, England), has developed a short pulse laser technique which can delay the onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of sight loss in Britain, according to a July 6th story by David Rose in The U.K.'s Times Online.
About 200,000 people in the UK are currently registered as blind or partially sighted because of AMD, which damages the part of the retina responsible for precise vision. Marshall, who pioneered laser eye surgery to cure short-sightedness, said the "retinal rejuvenation" treatment could delay the effect of ageing without damaging any other cells (see also "Low-level light therapy: It's all about wavelength and power"). The technique works by stimulating enzymes to remove waste material from a thin membrane behind the retina, called Bruch's membrane. Improvements to sight were reported after the treatment was used in a clinical trial involving more than 100 diabetics.
Once people have advanced AMD in one eye, said Marshall, studies show the condition usually develops in the second eye in 18 months to three years. "If you can delay the onset by three, four, six, seven or 10 years, it's proof of the principle," he said. Marshall said he hoped the treatment would be available within two to five years and one day people in their 40s who have a family history of AMD could choose to have the treatment as a way of preventing the onset of the condition.
Conventional lasers can cause damage to the light sensitive cells in the eye but Prof Marshall said, "With this laser it's been specifically designed so we don't cause any damage to the light sensitive cells or to any cells."
There is currently no treatment for the most common form of AMD--known as "dry" AMD--which the new laser technique could prevent. The more aggressive "wet" form of AMD--where new blood vessels cause bleeding and scarring behind the retina--can be stabilized with drugs.
For the full Times Online story, go to http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article6644692.ece.