Drug May Help with Common Form of Vision Loss
By Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor
An experimental drug reduces eye damage in people with a common form of vision loss for which there is currently no available treatment, a new study finds.
The new research sought to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss in industrialized countries, according to the World Health Organization. The disease damages the macula, a tiny spot near the center of the retina, the light-sensitive part of the eye. The result is blurriness or a loss of vision straight ahead in a person’s field of view, which can have a devastating impact on many daily activities, such as reading, driving or recognizing faces.
The new study included 129 participants ages 60 to 89 in the United States and Germany. All of the participants had a particular type of AMD called geographic atrophyAMD, or “dry AMD.” In the 18-month trial, the participants who were given monthly injections of a drug called lampalizumab had a 20 percent reduction, on average, in the size of the area of the retina that is affected by the disease, compared with the control group that was given a placebo injection.
One group of patients in particular benefited from the drug, experiencing a 44 percent drop in the size of the area affected by the disease. A genetic analysis of these patients revealed that they shared a certain genetic mutation, according to the study, which was funded by the company Genentech.
“The most important implication of these results is that it shows how the genetics of a human disease may be critical for understanding the disease,” study co-author Dr. Erich Strauss, a clinical scientist at Genentech, told Live Science. Such research “may guide the discovery of new therapeutic targets to treat the disease and define populations that may benefit most from treatment,” he added.
“The fact that we now have something that can possibly slow down the progress of this disease is very exciting to the field, since nothing exists right now,” Dr. Wai Wong, a retinal disease specialist at the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, who did not take part in this study, told Live Science.
Wong noted that this study had relatively few patients, leaving its findings open to question. Strauss and his colleagues are now conducting a larger Phase 3 clinical trial with lampalizumab to evaluate its long-term safety and efficacy. Only then might the drug be considered for FDA approval.
The scientists detailed their findings online June 21 in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
Source: Live Science