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The future of AMD treatment

In this series of blogs posts, which are based on short interviews, Medical Retinal Expert Jaheed Khan describes the different types of AMD; including:

  • the dry and the wet,
  • how they present,
  • what they look like,
  • how they differ, and
  • how we can treat them.

In this short interview, Jaheed Khan tells us about the future crystal ball gazing to treat AMD.
Jane Olver: With age-related macular degeneration, it is quite a miracle that we have got these anti-VEGF injections that can help to improve the vision and reverse the wet form of the AMD. We have now had these drugs for a few years. What else is there on the future horizon for the treatment of AMD? What do we know about the underlying cause that we may be able to alter in the future?Jaheed Khan: The challenge we face with age-related macular degeneration is exactly as you say; “what is the cause?”
We have a suggestion that there are structural changes within the retina which if we could prevent from happening with age may prevent the formation of blood vessels in wet macular degeneration.
What the focus of current research is trying to replace these worn cells. You might remember me talking about dry age-related macular degeneration not having a treatment. Well, the Holy Grail of treatment for that condition is to replace those worn cells and reverse the ageing process as such. If we can grow those cells in the laboratory and implant them either using stem cells or use your cells to grow the tissue back and incorporate that back into the normal physiological responses that we see in normal retinae, then that would be the ideal treatment. We are some way off though from developing those sort of treatments.
JO: Is that the direction that research is taking at the moment or one of the directions?
JK: It is one of the main directions. I think most people have heard about stem cell transplants and the other thing that people hear about is gene therapy. Gene therapy is not quite as advanced in its investigations as we would hope. As we mentioned before, AMD is not specifically down to one gene. We are not looking to replace one gene, and then the disease is cured like some of the rare eye diseases where gene therapy has worked. So, the multifactorial element of age-related macular degeneration is one of the challenges that we face.
JO: So, I hope we can all look forward to a healthy older age, keep going to the gym, keep having a good diet, do not smoke, choose your parents well, what else can we advise?
JK: Come and see me.
JO: And see Jaheed Khan if you are worried that you may have age-related macular degeneration. Jaheed Khan is a medical retina specialist working at Moorfields Eye Hospital and Clinica London. Thank you very much, Jaheed. In the next interview with  Medical Retinal Expert Jaheed Khan, we will talk more about how do you know if you have AMD.

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