Newsletter

Macular Degeneration Research News: Summer 2020

Macular Degeneration Newsletter: Spring 2020
Macular Degeneration Newsletter: Spring 2020

 

In This Issue...


New Research Grants Leading Us to A Cure

Last year, Macular Degeneration Research announced more than $3 million in funding for 20 new research grants, bringing our global active portfolio to 36 active projects. The grants will fund a broad array of science that is leading us to a greater understanding of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), earlier detection and diagnosis of the disease, and new drugs and treatments.

“These new grants give bold, innovative ideas a chance to succeed. By pursuing the untried, the unexpected, and the most promising, we are trying to spark new and faster ways to find cures,” said President Stacy Pagos Haller.

Each research grant we fund is reviewed by a panel of leading experts. They search for opportunities where our early-stage support may someday save the sight of millions of people. Some of the most promising grants focus on:

Negative Immune Regulator. A novel negative-immune regulator that may suppress inflammation-induced abnormal vessel growth in AMD by altering immune-vascular crosstalk. Currently, there is no effective treatment to prevent or slow the blood vessel proliferation, which is a major cause of vision loss in AMD. Findings from this work will help identify possible new treatments to prevent this disease.

Risk Prediction. By bringing together experts in computational, genetics, and regenerative medicine, we will unravel how genes, the environment, and other factors interact with each other to influence the progression of AMD as well as how these different factors influence AMD disease subtypes. This work will provide targets for the future development of therapies that may help provide better treatments.

Nanomedicine. For the first time, researchers will use gold nanoparticles to treat AMD specific genes—an exciting new approach to treatment that could eventually help doctors “turn off” genetic components of this disease.

Additional grants are funding studies to help reveal why new blood vessels invade the retina and cause blindness during age-related macular degeneration; help better understand the mechanism of the ABCA4 pump involved in vision, and to correct defects of the pump for treating macular degeneration; uncover a novel pathway that has the potential to be able to restore vision in the future by programming Muller cells (a type of immune cell) to change into retina cells; and much more.

For more information on these and other AMD research grants, please visit brightfocus.org/2019MDRgrants.

President's Corner

Everyone at Macular Degeneration Research is in the fight against this devastating disease for one reason: to win.

And today, I’m more convinced than ever before that it’s not a matter of “if” we’re going to win, it’s a matter of “when.” This optimism is a direct result of the groundbreaking scientific research that is progressing each and every day—research that your generous support makes possible.

I’m particularly encouraged by the new research grants we’re funding (see the cover article of your newsletter). These studies represent our most ambitious and comprehensive science on macular degeneration yet, and I know it will yield many new insights in this fight.

Thank you for playing such a vital role in all of this progress, and for giving hope to the estimated 11 million Americans impacted by macular degeneration.

Stacy Pagos Haller
President

Macular Degeneration: Links to Other Diseases?

Question: Are there common medical problems that lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD)?

Answer: According to ophthalmologist Joshua Dunaief, MD, there are risk factors for AMD, especially high blood pressure. “In general, systemic inflammation is a risk factor for macular degeneration. It was shown some years ago in blood tests that people who have systemic inflammation measured by a test called C-reactive protein, or CRP, have an increased risk of macular degeneration. CRP levels are also a risk factor for heart disease.”

“So, there is certainly a connection between systemic diseases, like heart disease, and macular degeneration in that inflammation can drive both of them—also neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s,” added Dunaief.

“Interestingly, patients who eat a plant-, fruit-, and vegetable-rich diet, with a reduction in simple sugars and a reduction in animal products, can lower their CRP levels. I think that it is likely to lower the risk of macular degeneration and other systemic diseases.”

Dunaief also addressed glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetes, saying, “Glaucoma is not known to be associated with macular degeneration; they are two separate diseases. Similarly, cataracts are not associated with macular degeneration, but they are an age-associated condition. Diabetes doesn’t increase the risk of macular degeneration, but it can cause some of the similar symptoms because the macula can be affected by something called diabetic macular edema, where blood vessels leak.”

Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Facts and Figures

Doctor conducting an eye exam

  • As many as 11 million Americans have some form of age-related macular degeneration. This number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050.
  • The risk of getting advanced age-related macular degeneration increases from 2% for those ages 50-59, to nearly 30% for those over the age of 75.
  • Age-related macular degeneration is an irreversible destruction of the macula, which leads to loss of the sharp, fine- detail, “straight-ahead” vision required for activities like reading, driving, recognizing faces, and seeing the world in color.

There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet.

  • The dry form of macular degeneration, in which the light-sensitive cells of the macula slowly break down, is the most common type, accounting for 90 percent of diagnosed cases.
  • Wet macular degeneration accounts for approximately 10 percent of cases, but results in 90 percent of legal blindness. Wet macular degeneration is always preceded by the dry form of the disease.

While there is currently no cure for macular degeneration, there are several treatments that may delay or prevent the disease from
progressing, including:

  • Beovu® (brolucizumab), EyleaTM (aflibercept), Lucentis® (ranibizumab), and Macugen® (pegaptanib).
  • Photodynamic therapy, a treatment that can help control the abnormal blood vessel growth and bleeding in the macula for those with wet
    macular degeneration.
  • A high-dose formula of antioxidant vitamins and zinc, which may reduce the risk of intermediate age-related macular degeneration from progressing to the advanced stage.

Note: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat or diagnose any problems. Please speak directly with your doctor about any questions specific to your treatment.

How To Choose The Right Sunglasses

Woman wearing sunglasses at the beach

Sunglasses are important for the maintenance of eye health and, of course, are a fashion statement! These glasses can diminish the intensity and potential damage from both visible and invisible light, such as ultraviolet (UV) light. The prudent step is to wear sunglasses when out in bright light.

In order to protect against UV light, purchase sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB. Wrap-around sunglasses will help block light coming from any angle. Additional factors to consider include:

Lens Color—Since blue light seems to be particularly harmful (it carries the most energy of all the visible wavelengths), choose a lens color that blocks a lot of blue. Amber or gray tint will work well.

Tinting—Sunglass tinting can be done in various colors and intensities. Again, choose amber or gray. Gray is better for driving, as it may be more difficult to see traffic light colors with amber tinting.

Polarized Lenses—Polarization of lenses blocks the light waves that are oriented in a certain direction, reducing the total amount of light transmitted and reducing glare. Polarized lenses are especially useful for outdoor sports and driving.

Register for BrightFocus Chats

Recently diagnosed with AMD? Know someone who has it? Receive helpful information from our FREE monthly phone call with doctors, researchers, or experts in the field on timely topics. You can submit questions before or during the event. Transcripts and audio recordings are available afterward on our website.

To register, call 800-437-2423 or go to brightfocus.org/eyechats.

Risk Factors of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Cutting vegetables

Since age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older, it’s important to take steps that may help prevent this eye disease.

3 Factors That Increase Risk

Smoking
Smoking increases a person’s chances of developing AMD by two to five fold. Anyone who smokes should try their hardest to stop, especially if they already have signs of AMD. It will help save your vision.

Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a risk factor for developing wet AMD. It leads to a constriction of the blood vessels that nourish the retina, negatively affecting its health.

Sun Exposure
Long-term bright light exposure may be a risk factor for AMD. Many ophthalmologists recommend the use of sunglasses and a hat to protect against potentially harmful bright sunlight.

3 Factors That Reduce Risk

Supplements
The age-related eye disease study (AREDS2) showed that a supplement formula containing 10 milligrams (mg) of lutein, 2 mg of zeaxanthin, 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin E, 80 mg of zinc oxide, and 2 mg of cupric oxide can reduce the risk of disease progression by 25 percent.

Diet
People who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, as well as twice-weekly meals of fat-rich fish like salmon, sardines, tuna, or mackerel have a lower risk of AMD.

Eye Examinations
Early diagnosis (even before noticeable symptoms) and treatment may help control the progression of the disease and stabilize vision.

Summary
A healthy lifestyle consisting of no smoking; a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, but limited in red meat; use of sunglasses when outside; regular comprehensive eye examinations; and AREDS2 vitamins when they are advised by your doctor, will increase the chance of maintaining healthy vision for a lifetime.

Envision A Legacy of Hope

Portrait of an elderly couple

If you could envision a Legacy of Hope for the estimated 11 million Americans impacted by macular degeneration, what would it look like?

One way you can make your vision a reality is by remembering Macular Degeneration Research in your will or living trust. This method of giving is one of the best ways to ensure your life’s work continues advancing the causes that were closest to your heart after your passing, while ensuring you retain control of your finances now.

Your Legacy of Hope can help fund vital macular degeneration research that leads to better treatments—and brings us closer to a cure.

Making changes to your will or living trust will require that you set time aside to meet with your estate planning attorney. We promise it will be time well spent!

Contact Charles Thomas at 301-556-9362 or plannedgiving@brightfocus.org to learn more about how you can give the gift of future support and create your sight-saving legacy today.

This information is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such advice, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. References to estate and income taxes include federal taxes only. State income/estate taxes or state law may impact your results.

This content was first posted on: May 8, 2020

The information provided in this section is a public service of BrightFocus Foundation, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional, and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Although we take efforts to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the information on our website reflects the most up-to-date research. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

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