Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that commonly affects people aged 50 years and older. It occurs when the inner layers of the macula, a region of the retina that provides the eye with a clear vision in the direct line of sight, begin to break down and function less effectively. Although we don’t know precisely what causes macular degeneration, research indicates that it may be due to a combination of environmental factors, including diet and obesity coupled with family genes and age.
Close to 20 million Americans aged 40 and older are currently living with some kind of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and the condition is a leading cause of visual impairment and irreversible blindness across the globe. Of the nearly 20 million Americans with age-related macular degeneration, around 1% will experience vision-threatening AMD.
Researchers from the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai recently published a study indicating that two ocular diseases may contribute to the development of AMD. The study found that two natural deposits called subretinal drusenoid deposit (SSD) and drusen may contribute to the onset of age-related macular degeneration. For their research, the investigators studied parts of 23 different eyes in 18 patients who were suffering from advanced AMD.
The researchers discovered that these two deposits had a negative effect on a fluorescent light called autofluorescence (AF), which is produced naturally in the eye by the retina. Dr. Phillip Storey, a fellowship-trained retina specialist and a board-certified ophthalmologist who wasn’t involved in the study notes that this fluorescence may be abnormal whenever the retina is afflicted.
Dr. R. Theorodore Smith, coauthor of the study, stated that since autofluorescence wasn’t easily seen by the naked eye, the research team created sensitive diagnostic tools that could pick up the dim light. A professor of ophthalmology at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, Smith explained that people who had AMD exhibited abnormal patches of darker or lighter AF in their eyes.
He added that SSDs tend to be more detrimental to vision as they double the rate of progression from initial disease onset to advanced AMD. Furthermore, SSDs have a strong association with life-threatening diseases that affect the vascular system.
According to ophthalmologist and director of the retina division with McGovern Medical School at UT Health Houston Dr. Sam Dahr, the presence of SSDs can also point to undetected cerebrovascular or cardiovascular disease. Dahr noted that the recent findings may allow clinicians and researchers to better distinguish between eyes that have an SSD profile from eyes with a drusen profile and tailor their recommendations.
Companies such as BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (NASDAQ: BVXV) have drug-development pipelines that include potential candidates targeting macular degeneration and other conditions whose clinical needs aren’t being sufficiently met at the moment. The success of these programs could offer hope to AMD patients.
NOTE TO INVESTORS: The latest news and updates relating to BiondVax Pharmaceuticals Ltd. (NASDAQ: BVXV) are available in the company’s newsroom at https://ibn.fm/BVXV
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