Press Release

New Study: Leading Cause of Blindness Could Be Prevented or Delayed

BrightFocus-Funded Research Shows Parkinson’s Drug Could be Repurposed to Save Sight of Millions

This research was supported by BrightFocus

Clarksburg MD—In a major scientific breakthrough, a drug used to treat Parkinson’s and related diseases may be able to delay or prevent macular degeneration, the most common form of blindness among older Americans.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Medicine, are a groundbreaking effort in the fight against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which affects as many as 11 million Americans. AMD hinders central vision, and even when it does not lead to blindness it can severely reduce the ability to read, drive, and recognize faces.

In the study, supported in part by BrightFocus Foundation, researchers discovered a biological connection between darker pigmented eyes, that are known to be resistant to AMD, and increased levels of a chemical called L-DOPA in those eyes. Since L-DOPA is frequently prescribed for Parkinson’s patients, the researchers wanted to know whether patients who received the drug L-DOPA as treatment for Parkinson’s or other diseases were protected from AMD. By combing through massive databases of medical chart data, they reported that patients receiving L-DOPA were significantly less likely to get AMD, and when they did, its onset was significantly delayed.

“Rather than looking at what might cause AMD, we instead wondered why certain people are protected from AMD. This approach had never been done before,” says senior author Brian McKay of the University of Arizona.

The research findings are based off an analysis of the medical records of 37,000 patients at the Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin. Because the average age of those given L-DOPA is 67, while the average age of AMD diagnosis is 71, scientists were able to effectively track patterns. These major findings were then confirmed by reviewing a data set of 87 million patients. In this large scale data set, L-DOPA also delayed or prevented AMD from progressing to its “wet” form, the most devastating form of the disease.

“This exciting breakthrough shows the power of scientific discovery to give hope to millions of people across the nation and the world. Their methodology is a reminder that ‘big data’ is not a buzzword—it is a bold and innovative new approach to science,” said BrightFocus president and CEO Stacy Pagos Haller.

The next steps for the team of scientists is to launch a clinical trial to further test the ability of this drug to prevent AMD. The title of their research paper is “Mining Retrospective Data for Virtual Prospective Drug Repurposing: L-DOPA and Age-related Macular Degeneration.”
 

BrightFocus Foundation drives innovative research worldwide and promotes awareness of Alzheimer's, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. BrightFocus, which earlier this year announced a record $11 million in new science to cure diseases of mind and sight, is currently managing a global portfolio of over 150 research projects. For more information www.brightfocus.org or 1-800-437-2423.

This content was first posted on: November 9, 2015

Contact Information


Michael Buckley, Vice President of Public Affairs
BrightFocus Foundation
Phone: (301) 556-9370; Email: mbuckley@brightfocus.org

Alice L. Kirkman, Marketing and Communications Manager
BrightFocus Foundation
Phone: (301) 556-9349; Email: akirkman@brightfocus.org

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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