New gene therapy is offering hope to patients with age-related macular degeneration.
Feburary 2019, BBC News reported that an English woman named Janet Osborne had become the first person in the world to receive an experimental gene therapy treatment to halt the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A condition which is the leading cause of blindness in the Western world.
The treatment involves injecting a synthetic gene into the central part of the retina (back of the eye), with the hope that the gene will enable the eye to continue make a naturally-occurring protein which prevents further cells from dying and keeps the macula healthy. By ensuring the macular remains healthy, vision loss can be avoided.
Unlike current treatments for AMD this new treatment aims to target the underlying genetic cause of the condition.
Mrs Osborne is one of 10 patients who will take part in the gene therapy trial conducted at Oxford Eye Hospital under the supervision of Professor Robert MacLaren.
Mrs Janet Osborne, first patient to receive new gene therapy for AMD
Although this is an exciting development in AMD research, the trial is still in the early stages and is primary designed to ensure the safety of the new procedure before larger scale trials begin. All the patients involved in the trial have already experience some degree of vision loss due to macular degeneration.
If the initial trial is successful, the eventual aim would be to offer treatment to patients before any vision loss has occurred, having profound implications for the quality of life for those diagnosed with age-related macular degermation.
At this stage it isn’t known if the gene therapy treatment has been successful in halting the progression of Mrs Osborne’s vision loss, but researchers are monitoring her closely and will report their findings in the near future.
Unfortunately, this gene therapy treatment is not currently available to our patients in Australia. However, if you are concerned about the health of your eyes and would like to discuss current treatment options available for AMD, then please call Northern Eye Centre on 9459 5133 to make an appointment with our experienced macular degeneration specialist, Dr Saf Bassili. A referral from your local doctor or optometrist is required.