A novel form of laser treatment has the potential to reduce the course of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of visual loss, without causing retinal damage.
This was the finding of a research published in The FASEB Journal by the University of Melbourne in Australia.
The effectiveness of a new low-impact, low-energy laser therapy for individuals with early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) was investigated by Erica Fletcher, an associate professor at Melbourne’s Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, and colleagues.
They discovered that, unlike previous laser therapies, the “nanosecond laser” they examined did not harm the retina, which is the light-detecting tissue at the back of the eye.
Prof. Fletcher claims that theirs is the first study to show how the novel laser treatment can help people with AMD improve their eye health.
AMD is a painless eye condition that causes central vision loss over time. It is the main cause of irreversible impairment of fine or close-up vision – such as that required for reading – among people aged 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (resource no longer accessible at www.cdc.gov).
According to estimates, roughly 1.8 million Americans aged 40 and over have AMD, with another 7.3 million at risk.
AMD is responsible for 48 percent of severe vision loss in Australia, where the study took conducted, with an estimated 17,700 new cases per year.
New laser treatment reduced drusen and thickness of Bruch’s membrane
In the early stages of AMD, examination of the back of the eye reveals the development of microscopic fatty deposits known as drusen, as well as a thickening of a thin layer of tissue known as Bruch’s membrane. As these symptoms increase, the core section of the retina is slowly destroyed.
According to the findings, the nanosecond laser can diminish drusen and thin the Bruch’s membrane without causing damage to the retina’s structure.
The researchers conducted a number of tests and experiments as part of the study. One study included 50 AMD patients who had a single session of nanosecond laser therapy and were followed up on two years later. Their drusen burden was lowered in comparison to a similar group of untreated individuals, according to eye tests.
The membrane was thinner three months after treatment in mice with thicker Bruch’s membrane who underwent the laser therapy.
New laser treatment did not damage the retina
The researchers used human and animal eyes to assess the new laser’s effect on the retina, for example, using a procedure called “immunohistochemistry,” which can detect minute changes in tissue structure.
The researchers state this about their research:
“Nanosecond laser resolved drusen independent of retinal damage and improved BM [Bruch’s membrane] structure, suggesting this treatment has the potential to reduce AMD progression.”
The findings “indicate that treating people with AMD with our new nanosecond laser lowers indications of the disease,” according to Prof. Fletcher.
“Most importantly,” she continues, “the nanosecond laser does not cause harm to the delicate retina, unlike other lasers now used to treat eye disease.”
The researchers also discovered evidence that using the nanosecond laser to treat one eye can have beneficial benefits on the other eye, raising the prospect that one therapy could be enough to correct disease in both eyes.
Glaucoma, in which fluid builds up in the eye and puts pressure on the optic nerve, is another main cause of blindness. The condition is treatable, but there is no treatment at this time.