Exciting new research indicates older Australians may not have to accept failing eyesight as part of the ageing process.
The outlook for ageing people with sight issues may be looking brighter with Australian scientists on the cusp of a breakthrough new treatment.
Age-related macular degeneration is a progressive and chronic disease of the retina – the part of the eye that allows vision to occur – and is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world, affecting one in seven people over the age of 50.
Scientists from the Australian National University in Canberra have joined forces with collaborators in South Korea to develop a potential cure for AMD – a sophisticated system of using particles produced by cells as information-carriers to transport drugs to specific parts of the body.
“This novel class of drug carriers and therapeutics are highly versatile and can be generated from various types of human cells, meaning they can be produced in large quantities,” said the head of the ANU Clear Vision Research Lab, Associate Professor Riccardo Natoli.
The technology could be used to help treat Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s in the future, the researchers say.
“We see this technology as something that can be universally adopted into many diseases, especially ones such as neurodegenerations which have many similar underlying features and molecular markers,” ANU researcher Yvette Wooff told AAP.
Once upon a time, failing eyesight was just considered part of getting older – but people shouldn’t just accept it, the researchers say.
“Previously, yes, people would just accept a loss of vision as part of the ageing process, however coupled with the rise in ageing populations, technology, and more unhealthy diets, this disease has become more prevalent,” Ms Wooff said.
“(And) if we can develop something that can slow the progression, or treat this disease we can not only improve the quality of life for these one in seven patients, but reduce the incredible economic burden – (approximately) $A5 billion annually, $A350 billion globally.”
Despite the progress, it may be some time before Australians get to experience the benefits. The team is hoping to complete preclinical trials within the next five years before moving on to clinical trials.