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Research and Clinical Trials for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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Dr. Guy Eakin

In this audio presentation, Dr. Guy Eakin talks about research into the causes of age-related macular degeneration and about how clinical trials test potential treatments. This presentation is part 6 of a 6 part series on macular degeneration.

  • Dr. Guy Eakin: Hello! I am Dr. Guy Eakin and I am here to tell you about research into the causes of age related macular degeneration or AMD and how clinical trials test possible treatments.

    On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 indicating the greatest impact on daily life, more than 70% of adults put loss of eyes sight at 10. AMD is the second highest cause of irreversible blindness in the world. The number of people living with AMD is similar to the number who have all types of cancer combined including those in remission. And yet, so far, we only know ways of slowing this devastating disease or at best preventing it from progressing to the more advanced stages.

    We don't know nearly enough about the causes of AMD or how to stop or cure it. Much more research is needed. We do know that there are more further areas to study for potential preventions, treatments, and cures. For example, scientific evidence shows that genes likely play a role in the development or nearly three out of four cases of AMD, and there are studies to show that several specific genes are associated with the disease.

    Caucasians are more likely to be affected than other races, but all adults over the age of 65 are at risk. Looking at the genetic differences in people who do and do not have AMD could lead to breakthroughs in understanding why and how the disease attacks the eye.

    Another progressing area is an on going investigation of a modified form of Vitamin A. This may reduce or eliminate the formation of clumpy deposits in the eye that contribute to AMD. Scientist are also investigating whether injecting adult stem cells into the bloodstream can reestablish normal sight in adults with dry AMD as this technology does for mice with impaired vision.

    If these and other exciting possibilities are successful in the laboratory, they still have to be proven to be safe an effective for humans. In the US, every potential treatment for AMD must go through a long series of human clinical trials before submission to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.

    Gathering, analyzing, and reporting on the trial data can take several years. Each trial has its own guidelines. Many need volunteers who have AMD, but there are also opportunities for those who don't have the disease. Participating in a trial has both benefits and risk. Volunteers may have access to medical care and treatment and they may be helping others by contributing to new knowledge.

    However, there may also be side effects and then treatments may not be effective and participating will require a time commitment. There are many trials though and they all have different benefits and risks. If you are interested in learning more or volunteering, find out more by searching for clinical trials online.

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