New research published in the journal Science Translational Medicine has suggested a revolutionary eye patch can improve vision for those who have severe age-related vision loss.
Dry Macular Degeneration
What is dry macular degeneration? This disease is common amongst those aged 65 or older and affects 1.75 people in the United States. Dry macular degeneration causes central vision to deteriorate as we age, which essentially makes it impossible to focus on the people, text or objects before us. However, peripheral vision is unaffected in dry macular degeneration, meaning going blind is usually not a factor in this disease.
The wet form of this disease happens more suddenly, caused by the area under the retina leaking blood vessels. Dry macular degeneration happens over time, which is why it’s affected as we age. The thinning of the macula in dry macular degeneration comprises patients’ direct vision, which can impact people’s driving and overall quality of life.
Researchers from the University of Southern California came to this conclusion after placing the 6x4mm patch coated with healthy human embryonic stem cells on four people with advanced dry macular degeneration. The patch was placed on the back of the eye, on the tissue near the eye’s optic nerve, which resulted in impulses being sent to the brain to create images.
The four participants were found to have improved or stabilized vision by the end of the experiment, which lasted one year. All participants received the patch on just one eye so that researchers could compare the results to the untreated eye. Researchers found that the treated eye saw a stabilization of the disease while the untreated eye became worse over time. One of the participants’ eyesight improved so much that she was able to read 24 letters on an eye chart after the experiment, compared to seven letters before it.
Researchers plan to conduct a larger experiment that will test this pioneering patch on patients at earlier stages of dry macular degeneration.