|A revolutionary new laser treatment for one of the leading causes of blindness is showing promise in a trial being conducted at the Melbourne-based Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), funded by the State Government of Victoria, Australia.|
|Professor Robyn Guymer with an eye chart.|
|The trial into dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is leading the world in treatment for the debilitating disease, which is the main cause of vision loss in Australia.|
AMD is a progressive disease affecting the central area of the retina called the macula. Half a million Australians – 15 percent of people over 50 – live with the early stages of the disease, which is estimated to cost the community more than AU$2.6 billion annually.
The trial, involving 50 patients, is being conducted by CERA and the University of Melbourne in partnership with Ellex. It is being carried out at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, with further research contributed to by Dr Erica Fletcher and Professor Algis Vingrys from the University of Melbourne.
Head of Macular Research at CERA, Professor Robyn Guymer, said Retina Regeneration Therapy (Ellex 2RT™), unlike existing AMD treatments, targets the disease in its early stages before sight is lost.
“What has been quite unexpected in the trials so far is that the treatment is arresting progression not only in the treated eye but, intriguingly, in the other eye as well,” Prof. Guymer said.
Prof. Guymer said the treatment involves a novel laser device, an Australian designed and manufactured laser by Ellex R&D Pty Ltd, which is specially designed to deliver a controlled nanosecond dose of laser energy into the eye.
“These initial results suggest Retinal Regeneration Therapy eliminates the yellow deposits known as ‘drusen,’ which are present in the retinal tissue of people with age-related macular degeneration,” she said.
“Disappearance of the drusen hopefully reflects a slowing or reversal of the degenerative processes that lead to the disease.”
Victorian Innovation Minister Gavin Jennings said that the results so far were extremely exciting.
"The treatment is working consistently and, given the positive results to date, it is likely people around the world will be keen to use the treatment – the only treatment available to slow the disease,” he said.
“By helping fund trials such as the world-first retina regeneration therapy, the State Government of Victoria, Australia is taking action to improve the health of millions of people,” Mr. Jennings said.
“Victoria is home to some of the world’s leading scientists and scientific facilities, and we are committed to supporting this innovative industry that not only improves the quality of lives for Victorians but also creates jobs.”
The State Government of Victoria, Australia provided AU$540,000 through the AU$41 million Victoria’s Science Agenda Investment Fund for CERA to conduct the trial.
The announcement coincides with BIO2010 in Chicago, the world's largest biotechnology convention, where the Governor of Victoria Professor David de Kretser, AC is leading a Victorian consortium of investors and biotechnology companies.