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AMD is the most common cause of irreversible vision impairment in the Western world. There is currently no cure for AMD and all the efforts concentrate on managing symptoms and early detection and treatment of AMD significantly reduces vision impairment. Most patients are diagnosed at advanced stages of the disease, while screening, early testing and medical intervention could make possible prevention of the progression of the disease. Researchers at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology have now identified method of detecting drusen - small deposits present in the retina of AMD patients which can be used during routine ophthalmic tests to help patients make the necessary lifestyle changes and start therapy before significant vision loss.
<h2>The Technology and its Advantages</h2>
Drusen are microscopic occlusions between the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the Bruch's membrane and which have been described in patients with AMD, Alzheimer's Disease (AD) and related conditions. Although these deposits can be detected by microscopic examination, microscopy cannot be used in the diagnosis of living tissues in patients. Researchers at UCL Institute of Ophthalmology have identified a selection of dyes which can specifically bind to drusen to facilitate imaging even small deposits using fundus camera or ophthalmoscope. The dyes are already being used in animal experimental models strongly suggesting that they will also be available for use in humans.
According to WHO, AMD is the leading cause of adult vision loss and in 2010 affected over 7.5M people in the seven major markets (US, Japan, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK). There is currently no cure for AMD and all the medical efforts concentrate on slowing down the progression of the disease. Often changes to the patient's lifestyle are recommended to minimise and slow the vision impairment process and for this reason early diagnosis and detection of risk is essential. Using dyes to visualise drusen during routine ophthalmic check ups can facilitate diagnosis even decades earlier than it is being diagnosed at the moment.
<h2>Intellectual Property Status</h2>
The drusen staining is patent pending (WO2014036483)
Thompson et al., 2015, PNAS 3;112(5):1565-70
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