Millions of people could have their eyesight saved thanks to ground-breaking laser treatment that has the potential to eradicate the most common cause of blindness.
One of Britain’s leading eye experts has developed a technique to reverse the disabling effects of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which leaves many older people unable to read, drive or live independently, and eventually robs them of sight in one or both eyes.
Professor John Marshall has developed a way of “cleaning” eyes which, due to the ageing process, have accumulated tiny particles of debris which start to cloud their sight. His pioneering technique uses a painless “short pulse” laser to solve the otherwise intractable problem of how to help the eye’s waste disposal system do its job after it has been weakened by age.
Marshall, a senior ophthalmologist at King’s College London, said he hopes this “retinal regeneration therapy” could prevent and reverse the onset of AMD.
The technique works by rejuvenating a thin membrane behind the retina, called Bruch’s membrane. Over time this membrane becomes so “clogged” with the by-product of cell renewal that vital nutrients can no longer cross from the bloodstream into the retina and excess material becomes trapped, unable to pass in the other direction. This leads to the death of retinal cells and, in time, to AMD and eventual blindness.
Marshall’s technique promises to prevent and even reverse the process, allowing the eye to return to something like its youthful, uncluttered state. In a clinical trial involving more than 100 diabetics, Marshall found that focusing a laser beam on one part of the retina helps stimulate the release of enzymes, which then set about cleaning up the waste material. Participants reported this led to a marked improvement in their sight.
Marshall now plans to conduct a wider trial among those suffering the early stages of AMD. In most cases the “clogging” begins when people reach their mid-40s, but does not always lead to significant sight loss. Some are more at risk, because of a number of factors in addition to their age. These include genetics – such as a family history of AMD. Women are more likely to suffer, and environmental factors can play a part, with smokers at greater risk….
Source for complete article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/jul/05/blindness-laser-cure-amd