Research: Dry & Wet AMD

Hello! I am going to get to the article Lin found on BrightFocus Foundation’s website about ‘lamp stuff’ aka lampalizumab but first I wanted to quickly mention a Google Talk by Isaac Lidsky. The title is Eyes Wide Open.

Lidsky began losing his sight to retinitis pigmentosa when he was 13 years of age. Although he has been totally blind for many years, Isaac Lidsky is extremely accomplished and has developed a philosophy that includes all sorts of concepts such as being present in the moment, doing what works and not abdicating responsibility for your life to your personal heroes and villains. His half an hour Google Talk may make some people rethink their attitudes towards their sight losses.

While I don’t expect many people to feel ‘lucky’ they are going blind – and Lidsky does consider his blindness to have been a blessing – Lidsky’s perspective on things can be thought provoking.

OK, onward to ‘lamp stuff’. We have quoted Joshua Dunaief before. One of the most helpful things he does for me in the current article is give us a pronunciation guide for lampalizumab. It is lamp-uh-liz-you-mab. Sort of like “Lamp!…uh, Liz, you mad/b?” You know, what you say when you knock over Elizabeth’s favorite light.

We have gone over the study results already in these pages. Complement factor I variant folks got kickin’ results. The rest of us, not so much. A reason for genetic testing for us before we submit to needles in the eyes, literally!

Dunaief says results are expected in 2018. Yep, December is their target date for publication. He does not mention phase 3 is over this December as is indicated in clinicaltrials.gov.

So, basically, still not really sure what is happening with ‘lamp stuff’ and me. May be offered it in December. May not be. May accept the offer. May not. I would love to know my genotype as compared to the SNPs they found in the experimental sample. Being a responder would be incredible. Being a nonresponder would be very bad. Dilemma.

And information for our ‘wet’ friends for my last 200 words. In JAMA Ophthalmology Jackson, Boyer and Brown reported the results of an experiment with an ORALLY administered vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor. In other words, they have been experimenting with a pill they hope would do the same thing as your anti-VEGF shots.

The stuff is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor. It caused a lot of upset tummies and diarrhea (5 and 6 subjects out of 35 respectively) but the side effects were not bad enough to stop the experiment. Some people did stop because of liver problems. Those with liver issues would probably not be candidates for the treatment.

Only 40% of the total required rescue shots. Even those people received fewer injections than they had without the pills.

Before you all rush out for your X-82 pills, bear in mind this was a phase 1 experiment. That is safety and tolerability, guys. They are moving on to proof of concept, phase 2, with a bigger n. (n being the number of subjects in the study, remember). Check clinicaltrials.gov if you are interested.

Remember we all do our part in this fight. If you have a strong liver and a strong stomach, X-82 might be your kind of research. You might get to be a lab rat before I do!

written September 2nd, 2017

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The Winner Is…Genetics!

I just tried to read the article listing the different genetic variants that have been associated with AMD. The complementary system in Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A review of rare genetic variants and implications for personalized treatment is declared the winner!

I admit defeat! Maybe I can study genetics for a decade and come back for a rematch.

I can sum up what I learned in about two sentences. The great majority of SNPs associated with AMD appear to be on chromosome 1 where the complement immune system is coded. SNPs cluster around the location of Complement Factor H although there are also large numbers of mistakes in the neighborhoods of Complement Factors i,2,3,9 and B.

The second thing I learned is this: the rare forms of AMD are coded for in other places. These ‘outliers’ are being studied in genetically-isolated groups such as the Amish.

Side note: The Amish are a closed, religious and cultural sect. Pennsylvania is a population center for the Amish. Therefore, here in Pennsylvania they live in association with us although not necessarily among us.

The Amish have all descended from an initial group of about 200 families. Because of the close inbreeding they suffer from a variety of genetically based problems such as dwarfism, Angelman’s Syndrome and several metabolic disorders. Being such a ‘natural laboratory’ for study of the founder effect, the Amish have allowed much genetic testing on members of their community. One of the conditions studied? Age-Related Macular Degeneration.

For more information on the Amish, check Wikipedia or your favorite reference.

OK, so it is not strictly info on AMD, but man does not live by vision loss news alone. I find that sort of stuff interesting. Hope you do, too.

And quickly back to the AMD stuff – because I only have about 200 words left – the Audacious Goals Initiative is still working hard to stamp out blindness. I found a better article on the mouse-zebrafish experiments on their page at the National Eye Institute. This article stressed how the Muller glia cells from the zebrafish had been able to be transformed so beautifully they were electrophysiological indistinguishable from interneurons cells. They had integrated well on both ends of the connection required and were sending signals to the brain. In other words, the zebrafish cells had changed and connected so the blind mice could now see.

Very preliminary work but exciting. The article cites a lot of problems such as: there are not quite enough zebrafish eyes to satisfy the demands of potential research. It might be best to find ways of coaxing regeneration of existing cells in our own eyes. Save the zebrafish!; you understand.

Just one more amazing bit of research and discovery that some day will eliminate Age-Related Macular Degeneration and allow people to see….I’m just glad there are people out there who are a helluva lot smarter than I am to do the research. Now, anyone want to explain the genetics to me?

written August 27th, 2017

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Overcoming Uncertainty

Medical treatment is a very uncertain proposition. Writing for the Journal of Graduate Medical Education Wray and Loo quoted Sir William Osler as saying “Medicine is a science of uncertainty and an art of probabilities”. The authors report that rarely is evidence of benefit totally clear-cut when a treatment has been administered. Also, it is rare for practitioners to agree totally on a treatment.

Sometimes opinions are expressed in such a robust manner by both that the patient is left in a quandary. How are we supposed to know who is correct? What are we supposed to do now?!?!

Wray and Loo suggest doctors (and others) look at the evidence. Is there evidence suggesting one treatment is superior to another? What does the research say?

Lin and I are big on research. The truth will be seen in the research. Notice I used the word will, future tense.

Work being done on AMD causes, treatments and maybe even cures is in its infancy. Like all infants, things are subject to change. The infant with blonde hair and a little button nose who you think looks just like your father may grow up to have brown hair and a ‘beak’ just like his uncle on the other side of the family! Final results subject to change without notice. Wait and see.

So many doctors don’t like to say they don’t know. Wray and Loo say it is a mark of professionalism to be able to discuss the pros and cons AND the uncertainties of a treatment, but how often does that happen? Maybe there is not enough time. Maybe they are uncomfortable being fallible. Maybe they think we can’t take it.

Wray and Loo talk about the emotional burden of uncertainty. Uncertainty is nerve-wracking. Many of us feel better believing any plausible nonsense than being told there is, as of yet, no answer.

The problem with believing strongly in something uncertain just so we HAVE an answer? When you find out your life-preserver is actually a cement block, you are too invested in it to let go!

How to handle uncertainty. I actually had to smile because when I went online what I found was totally in line with DBT.😉 If you want to go back to the DBT pages, have at it.

Travis Bradberry, a positive psychology proponent, shares 11 Ways Emotionally Intelligent People Overcome Uncertainty. Bradberry tells us our brains are hardwired to react to uncertainty with fear. He quotes a study in which people without information made increasingly erratic and irrational decisions.The diagram Bradberry showed was a brain and his caption said “uncertainty makes your brain yield control to the limbic system. You must engage your rational brain to stay on track”. Sounds three states of mind-ish to me.

Beyond that, Bradberry suggests calming your limbic system by focusing on the rational and real, being mindful of positives, taking stock of what you really know and don’t know, embracing what you cannot control (also known as accepting reality), focusing on reality, not trying to be perfect, not dwelling on problems, knowing when to listen to your gut, having a contingency plan (what I have always called plan B), not asking what if questions and – guess what! – breathing and being in the moment.

Hope this helped some. Remember this journey is not a sprint, it is a marathon. In fact it is a marathon that we don’t even know the course. Keep an open mind and don’t latch onto anything out of fear. Eventually we will find the way.
Continue reading “Overcoming Uncertainty”

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Whoopsie!

Whoopsie. Errata alert. I discovered the NaturalReader does NOT support Kindle like I thought [see previous page Jabbering]. This is because Kindle books are DRM (Digital Rights Management) books. Also iBooks, Nook and Adobe Overdrive. DRM is related to copyright laws. There are ways to get around the software ‘locks’ and you can easily find these offered on the web. However, they are illegal and we try not to encourage criminal behavior. Rumor has it scofflaws use something called Calibre. And that is what I know about that subject. 😛 [Lin/Linda here: I had to look up ‘scofflaws’ in the last sentence.  It is “a person who flouts the law, especially by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively.”]

I looked at Gutenberg.org and found titles like “The Paper Currency of England Dispassionately Considered”. Whoa.

Numismatists study coins AND paper money (thought it was just coins). Hopefully they would be enticed by that title. Me? Not so much.

So far on a cyber search of non-DRM ebook sources I find nuthin’. So for right now for ebooks on NaturalReader I guess it is Gutenberg.org or nothing. Remember if you are legally blind like moi, you can get BARD. I am just finishing listening to John Sandford’s Golden Prey. Love Lucas Davenport. Also, ebooks will zoom on a tablet so those with less of a vision loss can go that route. Sorry I fed you bum info.

And in other news, I passed the 100 mile mark on my bike today! This summer I have been using it for transportation. I realize for many of you your cycling days may be behind you; however, for those of you who can still ride and live in an area conducive to bike travel, it can be an option. Traveling at 7 miles an hour it is easier not to run into things than when you are traveling at 70 mph.

Of course, I almost had my first accident today. I was riding in the street parallel to some guy on a Jazzy (electric wheelchair) on the sidewalk. He decided he wanted to go across the street, swerved right and nearly took me out!

Maybe I should get a bell for my bike…or one of those horns with the red bulb. Anyway, glad I was able to avoid him. How do you explain being taken out by a Jazzy? It would be humiliating.

And because I am again prattling about things totally unrelated and of no great importance – and because I need about 150 more words! – I wanted to ask if you folks knew we are creating great investment opportunities? OK, maybe not us personally but I found a BusinessWire report on Global Age-Related Macular Degeneration Partnering Deals. They are hyping advice about buying into research and development of AMD treatments! They think people can make buckets of money off of us!

Now, some people may think it is rather opportunistic of these potential investors, but I think it’s great. The only way they can make said buckets of money is to invest in treatment we will buy. That generally means something that will work. If research is stirring up enough interest for people to be buying AMD specific investment advice, things have to be happening!

And that is the end of this page😁 Continue reading “Whoopsie!”

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Timeline Part 1: Advances in Treatment & Care for People with Macular Degeneration

It’s Lin/Linda.  I created this page to go with Sue’s page Not Your Parents’ AMD.  Like some of you, I had a loved one with AMD.  It was my father who was diagnosed with AMD in 2005 at the age of 82.  At the time, I was living 700 miles away and I did not know much about the disease or at what stage he was diagnosed.  He progressed to geographic atrophy (GA), that much I knew.  He was the sole caregiver for my mother who had Alzheimer’s Disease.  He continued to drive (not safely), take care of her and the house.  He was never referred to vision rehabilitation or offered any help other than being told to use handheld magnifiers.

I wondered how things have changed since then which led me to do this timeline review.  Not only have there been advances in the medical end of the field but also in the technology that is allowing people to remain independent for as long as possible.  That is if a person learns how to use the various devices and apps available.

I’ve based the categories of time on an article Age-Related Macular Degeneration
1969 –2004: A 35-Year Personal Perspective by Stuart L. Fine, MD published in 2005.  He says “In 1969, patients with AMD constituted a small part of a typical ophthalmic practice. From 1969 to 2004, the prevalence of AMD has increased, and the methods of evaluation and treatment have changed dramatically.”

I know I have missed many events that have been critical to the history of the treatment & care of AMD.  There is SO much information out there and I’ve tried to use the most significant dates I could find.  Have a suggestion of what to include? Did I get a date wrong? Let me know in a comment or send me an email at light2sight5153@gmail.com.

1st Era: 1969–1979
  • Emergence of fluorescein fundus photography: test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
  • Development of ‘hot’ (high power) laser photocoagulation, first treatment for wet AMD
  • Relationship of drusen to age-related macular degeneration
  • Other developments:
    • 1976-1977 first personal computers affordable for home use
    • more low vision aids:
      • 1960s large print books became available
      • 1976 large print calculators became available
      • 1969-1970 CCTV (closed caption TV) for reading aid
2nd Era: 1980–1994
  • Clinical trials to evaluate new treatments, especially laser photocoagulation (1979-1994)
  • Development of risk factor data from large and small epidemiologic studies (epidemology is looking for patterns & causes)
  • mid-1980s term ‘senile macular degeneration’ becomes ‘age-related macular degeneration’
  • Other developments:
    • 1982 Vitreous Society was founded; 1983 first meeting attended by 44 retinal specialists
    • 1991 OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
    • mid 1980s name changed from ‘senile macular degeneration’ to ‘age-related macular degeneration’
    • 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • 1983 first cell phones
    • 1991 World Wide Web for ‘surfing’ the Internet with easy-to-use browsers
    • low vision aids:
      • MaxiAids catalog of aids for orders from people with low vision & other impairments
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 1982 DragonSystems founded Dragon NaturallySpeaking, speech to text
      • 1988 ZoomText was released which is software to magnify text on a computer screen
3rd Era: 1995–2003
  • Evaluation of radiation therapy for neovascular AMD, not proven to be effective
  • Assessment of pharmacologic interventions for neovascular AMD; Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) “cold” (low power laser) with Visudyne (first drug treatment;  2001)
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS released 2001
  • Other developments:
    • 1995 Amazon sells books online (1998 expands beyond just books; e-books 2000)
    • 1996 Google released
    • 1998 first e-book reader The Rocket
    • 2000 GPS available for civilians; 2001 personal navigation systems available like Garmin and TomTom
    • 2000 Microsoft & Amazon sell e-books
4th Era: 2004 – 2017
  • Completion of ongoing trials for neovascular AMD: FDA approval: Macugen 2004; Avastin 2004; Lucentis 2006; Eylea 2011
  • Earlier identification of eyes at risk: regular use of OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) and other diagnostic tests
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS2 released 2013
  • Increased number of retinal specialists: eg, American Association of Retinal Specialists (ASRS), formerly Vitreous Society (see 1982 above), has 2700 members representing 60 countries.
  • Other developments:
    • 2011 First baby boomers turn 65
    • 2004 Facebook
    • 2013 first ‘bionic eye’ retinal implant, Argus II approved by FDA
    • technology:
      • 2007 Amazon Kindle e-reader; iPhone & Apple IOS
      • 2008 Android 1.0 & Android phone
      • 2010 Apple iPad
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 2005 Apple VoiceOver for Mac users
      • 2009 VoiceOver added to iPhone IOS
      • 2010 FDA approved implantable telescope
      • smart glasses/wearable technology
      • 2014 KNFB Reader app for Apple & Android; 2017 for Windows 10
    • ongoing research areas:

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Not Your Parents’ AMD

3 pm Monday and so far it is a good day. The pool guy is working on my new liner. The funny thingee on my tummy is a normal, benign growth and the transportation company got new vans with fancy logos painted on them. No more confusion with two dozen, white vans. Life is looking up!

Lin told me there was a conversation thread in the Facebook group about parents who struggled with AMD. People remember what their mothers and fathers went through and they are determined not to become like them.

I am reasonably sure my father’s vision problems were AMD. The more I think about it his father’s vision problems may have been AMD. I remember both of them using a handheld lens to read the newspaper as well as the really strange interpretations Daddy would have when it came to TV shows. I have no idea what HE was watching but it was not the same thing I was watching!

I have said it a couple of dozen times and I will say it again: this is the best time in the history of the human race to be losing our sight. Absolutely the best. You may not realize it. You may remember what you saw and think we are doomed to go there too but we are not. We really are not.

I tried a handheld magnifier for a couple of weeks. Not doing that again. They are very inefficient. I have my CCTV, my handheld reader and my iPad which can go in the Justand.

[Lin:Linda: To see what Sue uses on a daily basis, check out these pages: A Day in the Life and A Day in the Life:Work Day.]

I can get newspapers on my phone and books from BARD (there are other sources, too, as well as magazines which are available).  I’m able to take a picture of pretty much any text I want and my KNFB Reader will read it to me. The zoom feature on my iPad will allow me to read email and research pretty efficiently. ZoomText allows me to work. (refer to the “Day in the Life” pages above)

If I want to look at something a little distance away I can use my max TV glasses or my monocular. Not too bad.

Depending upon when Lin publishes this page, you either have or will be hearing about audio description services (coming soon!). If my father had had those for the TV we would have been “on the same page” a lot more than we were when we watched programs together. Audio description can also allow you to go to the movies and live theater and actually know what is going on.

Do I want to be losing my sight? Hell, no! This is not a walk in the park but it is not what Daddy endured either. Just the same he made it into his mid 80s and managed to take care of himself until other issues brought him down. If he could do it without all of the toys, I can do it.  [Lin/Linda: My dad had geographic atrophy & took care of my mother who had Alzheimer’s using several different handheld magnifiers & a few other low vision aids.]

Yet another reason to be optimistic is all of the exciting research happening. We are poised for a veritable explosion of treatments. Not cures, mind you, but treatments. Thirty years ago there was nothing.

[Lin/Linda: To see what’s in the research pipeline, click here.]

What can you do? Be willing. Use what has been provided. If you put that iPad your son gave you in the drawer you have absolutely no grounds for complains. Bluntly put? Your extra suffering will be your own damn fault.

What else? Volunteer. Sign up for clinical trials. Join support groups. Share your knowledge and skills.

Life – and this vision loss bit included – is the craziest thing you will ever experience and none of us get out alive. Make the most of it while you can.

Continue reading “Not Your Parents’ AMD”

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Caveat Emptor

So we have come to the middle of another week. Hump day, Wednesday!

I looked up funny hump day jokes and found a slew. You can take your pick. Some of them are giggle-out-loud quality.

Anyway, I taught today and then went over to the sight loss support group. My low vision person was presenting the latest in low vision technology, the MoJo monocular.

Mojo monocular

I cannot give you much of a spiel on it. I have not done much more than glance through it and pass it on. Therefore, as usual, this is just me telling you what I read. No recommendation.

The MoJo is a magnifier that works both near and far point. The price for the handheld monocular itself is about $1500. Add the part that can turn it into a CCTV and you are looking at $3000 or so. The manufacturer, Enhanced Vision, advertises a large field of view and autofocus capabilities.

This may be a great addition to the list of low vision tools. May not be. The MoJo has only been on the market for two or three months. If you are interested and have the money, try it and give us a product review.

And continuing in the interested and have the money vein, I have started to see articles suggesting that, in spite of its celebrity endorsements in the UK, the Eyemax Mono may still have some bugs to work out. The Daily Mail reported the Macular Society is suggesting caution before you agree to undergo this expensive procedure. The cost being quoted is £15,000 which at present exchange rates is approximately $19,480 (May 2017). Ouch. And if you are an American, remember the Eyemax Mono is not FDA approved and added to that cost would be a trip across the pond.

In short, it sounds promising, but remember caveat emptor. Use extreme caution before committing to any new procedure. Do your homework. Nothing is ever as good as it sounds at first blush.

The newest implant this side of the pond is a miniature telescope. This one is FDA approved so it should be both effective and safe. The manufacturer is VisionCare.  The surgery is Medicare eligible according to the article so we are not talking about huge out of pocket costs. That is a plus.

Now, once more, on the minus side, this is not a cure and will not halt the progression of the disease. All it is is magnification and a spreading of the image to intact parts of the retina. They have moved the magnification system from the outside in.

They also will only do the implant in one eye. That is because there is a ‘tunnel effect’ in the vision of the treated eye. The untreated eye is used for peripheral vision.

Another problem with the telescope is the need to train the brain. There is a period of several weeks during which the patient is learning to adapt to a new way of seeing.

Bottom line, things are progressing but not necessarily in the areas of treatment or cure. All three of these things mentioned magnify and move the image to intact retina. Close, but no cigar.

My personal preference is to find something medical that will stop the disease progression in it’s tracks. Barring that, magnification and relocating the image may bring you an undetermined period of better sight. You pay your money and you take your choice….just do it wisely.

May 10th, 2017 Continue reading “Caveat Emptor”

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