Dry Macular Degeneration is the number one cause of vision loss in Americans over age 65, according to Dr. John Henahan of Spectrum Eyecare in Peachtree City. “When I was director of low vision services at LSU Eye Center (in New Orleans), macular degeneration was the cause of vision impairment in more than 90% of my patients.” The condition afflicts 10 to 15 million Americans.
To date, dry macular degeneration has been untreatable, so prevention is a primary focus. Perhaps that will change with stem cell therapy. Bloomberg News reports “Advanced Cell Technology Inc. (ACT) is to test a therapy made from stem cells in patients with” age-related “macular degeneration (AMD). “Doctors will inject retinal cells made from stem cells into the eyes of 12 people with the dry form of macular degeneration.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that the “Phase I/II trial…would primarily test the safety of the cells and whether they are well-tolerated by patients.” Researchers “hope that these patients can be helped by the company’s retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, which would theoretically replace the ones that have been destroyed by the disease. The RPE cells have restored vision in rats and mice with an animal version of the disease.”
The Worcester Telegram reported that “the trial is the second human study for” ACT. Back “in November, the company received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to test its cells in patients with Stargardt’s Disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration.”
While this clinical trial brings hope for the millions who suffer from this condition or may suffer in the future, the best strategy is still one of prevention. According to Dr. Henahan, use of UV protective sunglasses, fish oil, lutein and a multivitamin should be a mainstay of preventive efforts. Additionally, smoking is a major risk factor for macular degeneration, so smoking cessation should be a top priority as well. Finally, regular eye exams with a dilated retinal evaluation is critical, especially for patients over the age of 45.
If you or a family member are at risk for AMD, contact Spectrum Eyecare and Dr. Henahan in Peachtree City for a complete eye examination. We will take the time to thoroughly examine your eyes and discuss the best ways to ensure a lifetime of healthy vision.