Category Archives: IT

New Developments in the Fight against Blindness from AMD

New Developments in the Fight against Blindness from AMD

Along with glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the world’s most common causes of blindness. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), five factors strongly influence the likelihood that a person will develop AMD: obesity, hypertension, a personal history of smoking, family history of the disease, and, most importantly, being over 60 years old. Statistics from the BrightFocus Foundation show that approximately 11 million Americans live with some degree of AMD. In the United States, there are more people affected by AMD than by glaucoma and cataracts combined.

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AMD refers to a condition in which the eye’s macula deteriorates, destroying central vision and acuity over time. The macula is located in the center of the retina, a thin tissue layer lining the inside of the back of the eyeball. The retina receives light captured by the lens and translates it into neural signals, which the optic nerve sends to the brain to enable visual perception. The macula is crucial for central vision and for discerning colors and fine details.

AMD occurs in two forms: dry and wet. The difference between the conditions isn’t in their effects, but in their causes. Up to 90 percent of people with AMD have dry macular degeneration, which is characterized by the formation of drusen (small white or yellow deposits of lipids) on the area of the retina directly beneath the macula. The drusen cause the deterioration of the macula over time, leading to AMD.

Wet AMD is much rarer. It represents just 10-to-15 percent of AMD cases, but accounts for about 90 percent of cases of severe vision loss from AMD. Wet AMD tends to occur with suddenness and may cause a person’s vision to quickly and severely decline. This form of the disease is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels near the macula. These blood vessels often leak, bleed and break inside the eye, all of which harms the macula.

When untreated, patients with AMD experience gradual, irreversible vision loss that can eventually lead to total blindness. Fortunately, scientists are looking at new ways to treat AMD to prevent blindness and possibly even restore vision lost to the disease.

New developments in AMD treatment   

There have been several interesting developments in the field of AMD treatment in the last year. In early 2019, a research team from the University of Liverpool published a study that provided an in-depth understanding of the genetic factors associated with the development of AMD.

Published in the journal Clinical Epigenetics, the study revealed a previously unknown connection between AMD and a set of genes. For the medical research community, the identification of these genes may be key to the development of new forms of treatment — a step that is significantly needed, especially in the case of dry AMD. While there are treatment options to halt the less-common wet AMD, the much more prevalent dry AMD still lacks effective treatment options.

In addition to the identification of these genes, in 2018, researchers in the UK conducted promising work in the use of stem cell therapy to restore vision lost to wet AMD. Nature Biotechnology published the results of a Phase 1 clinical study led by the London Project to Cure Blindness. During the study, which included two patients with advanced AMD, surgeons implanted a unique “patch” over each patient’s damaged macula. The patch was made of embryonic stem cells specially designed to differentiate into the eye’s retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells.

The two patients had lost their central vision to the point that they could barely see a book in front of them, let alone read. Without treatment, both patients would have been blind within weeks. Over the course of the year-long study, however, the patients’ vision improved. They experienced a visual acuity gain of 29 and 21 letters, respectively. Pete Coffey, DPhil, professor at University College London and one of the authors of the study, told the Guardian newspaper he believes the treatment could be available to the UK’s NHS surgeons within five years.

Other researchers are focused on eye drops as an alternative treatment for AMD. Currently, AMD patients are treated almost exclusively through monthly injections of drugs directly into the eye, which can only be administered by a licensed medical professional. Researchers from the University of Birmingham are working to develop cell-penetrating, peptide-based eye drops. These eye drops would provide patients with an effective AMD treatment method that is far less invasive, stressful, and time-consuming.

Three Technologies Changing the Lives of Glaucoma Patients

Three Technologies Changing the Lives of Glaucoma Patients

The disease glaucoma actually refers to a collection of disorders affecting the eye that eventually lead to optic nerve damage. Glaucoma can cause irreversible blindness and vision loss in patients. Currently, more than 3 million Americans are coping with the effects of the disease, for which there is still no cure. People who develop the… Continue Reading

The Promise of the Liquid Biopsy Cancer Test

The Promise of the Liquid Biopsy Cancer Test

According to the most recent data published by Cancer, a journal of the American Cancer Society, approximately 1.7 million new cases of cancer are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2018 alone. The total number of lives claimed by the disease is estimated to be more than 600,000, with lung cancer, colorectal… Continue Reading

MIT’s Commitment to Convergence in Healthcare

MIT’s Commitment to Convergence in Healthcare

As the technology and medical sectors continue to intersect in 2018, concepts central to the idea of Convergence in Healthcare have been featured in many major news articles. While only a limited number directly reference the Convergence in Healthcare movement itself, few of the major medical achievements in the last several years would have been… Continue Reading

How Microsoft is Moving Convergence Forward

How Microsoft is Moving Convergence Forward

The 2016 whitepaper “Convergence: The Future of Health” was authored by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who sought to bring awareness to a movement known as Convergence in Healthcare. Convergence aims to radically alter the way the U.S. addresses pressing modern health issues. The movement encourages integration between the life sciences, physical… Continue Reading

Convergence Led to Creation of These Important Medical Tests

Convergence Led to Creation of These Important Medical Tests

Numerous nonprofit groups have been established in the interest of raising money for particular illnesses. The mission of many organizations centers on a primary goal: to find a cure. The discovery of a cure for debilitating, common diseases is foremost in the minds of many in the medical community as well as among the general… Continue Reading

Five Facts to Know about Convergence in Healthcare

Five Facts to Know about Convergence in Healthcare

Since 2011, Convergence in Healthcare has been an important topic of discussion among professionals in the medical community — many of whom consider it the third revolution of the life sciences. Academics from some of the top research institutions in the US contend that Convergence in Healthcare is the future of medicine, and to ignore… Continue Reading

How Verily Uses Convergence to Innovate Healthcare

How Verily Uses Convergence to Innovate Healthcare

Since its foundation in 1998, Google, LLC, has changed the way people access information in the developed world. According to data reported by Smart Insights, Google facilitates around 3.5 billion Internet searches on average every day and remains the market leader for online search engines worldwide. The company’s massive success over the course of just… Continue Reading

Three Defining Characteristics of Convergent Research

Three Defining Characteristics of Convergent Research

The concept of convergence is having a transformative impact on the sciences. Considered by many academics to be the third revolution of the life sciences since the discovery of molecular and cellular biology in the 20th century, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) defined convergence in 2011 as “the merging of distinct technologies, processing disciplines,… Continue Reading

This is How Three Companies are Changing the Healthcare Sector

This is How Three Companies are Changing the Healthcare Sector

In terms of advancing the medical field, the most valuable work is being conducted by research scientists, educators and physicians employed at large scale nonprofit organizations, universities with a deep commitment to innovation and even smaller private foundations. These groups influence the growth of Convergence in Healthcare and also have a strong influence on innovation… Continue Reading