Progress Daily

I really cannot win with this transportation business. Now they are on a string of late pick-ups and I am waltzing in 45 minutes after everyone else. Grrrrrrrrrr!

Oh well, can’t fix it. Time to start a page…..and as soon as I am into it, they will show up. Same concept as going to the bathroom in the restaurant to ‘make’ your meal arrive faster.  Aha! Recognition! You have done that, too!

PRELUDE, the study, is NCT02659098. I checked and this is the same study I put my name in for last year. I just shot off a message to my research contact and asked her to make sure my ‘registration’ is still good. I am nothing if I am not persistent. Sad to say it is one of my better traits (oh no!)

There are actually two, main measurable outcomes they are interested in. There are the efficacy of the delivery system and best corrected acuity after administration of the stem cells. In the clinicaltrials.gov post they refer to the stem cells as CNTO 2476. In other literature they named the stem cells Palucorcel.  I guess it is better than George (with apologies to the royal family. I have never liked the name George, although the little guy is a cutie!) Of course, Palucorcel does not exactly fall trippingly off the tongue.

Anyway, according to a one page write-up by Jessica Lynch, previous attempts to circumvent the vitreous and go in subretinally caused too many problems. They are, as I had been led to believe previously, trying to go around to the macula using the suprachoroidal space as their passage. (Anyone ever see Fantastic Voyage? I keep thinking how incredible it would be to jump in my microscopic submarine and motor through the suprachoroidal space!) After preclinical trials with mini pigs were successful, they launched into prime time with a phase 1 trial with people. As I said, they are now recruiting for phase 2. [Sue wrote about subretinal and suprachoroidal are in the previous page: Secret Passages in the Eyeball

Looking at the additional data on clinical trials.gov I discovered there are secondary outcomes for the study. They will be looking at quality of life and reading speed as well as whether the stem cell transplants slow or even stop the growth of the geographic atrophy. They are also looking at how many people convert to wet AMD. It sounds as if this study would be a long term commitment for the ‘lab rats’ chosen.

Going back to the Medscape article about phase 1, I discovered they had pretty good success threading through the space and the transplanted cells grew and started to function.

Cell placement was important. They used the microperimetry to figure out what retinal areas the subjects were using for eccentric viewing. Too close and that could be messed up. Cell placement other places was better.

Results? The subjects had some improvement in vision. That was SOME. Before you get too excited,remember this is RPE replacement. RPEs do not see. They support your photoreceptors. Some of the photoreceptors that are at death’s door may come back but the dead ones stay dead.

I did run off the journal write-up on phase 1 and I promise to tackle it and see if there were any other cool findings. Later. Right now I have laundry to sort. Maybe listen to an NCIS episode. It is now playing all the way through on my tablet!  What can I say? It really is the little things.

Progress daily, guys. Progress daily. We will get there.

written October 17th, 2017 Continue reading “Progress Daily”

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Down the Rabbit Hole

Hey, back to the article Lin sent, Clinical Endpoints, etc. I now have another question: what scale is my retinologist using to classify me as ‘advanced’? Turns out there are two rating systems in use. One is the Wisconsin Age-Related Maculopathy Grading System and the other is the Beckman Initiative for Macular Research scale. If you are rated on the first one you would be advanced if you had foveal involvement. In the second one any type of GA, foveal involvement or no, you are considered advanced.

I have foveal involvement at least in my left eye so for me, it is actually a moot point. If you have been told you have advanced AMD, you might want to find out which scale is being used. It would appear – and again this is me surmising, not someone who knows something – a pronouncement based on the Beckman scale might not be as bad. You might still have a functional fovea.

Moving right along, lunch!😁 Be back in about 20!

We are still getting vine-ripened tomatoes out of the garden. In October! Weird…but yummy. Remember to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, taste the tomatoes, on your Journey. Neither one requires decent eye sight!

Back to work. We have talked about optical coherence tomography (OCT) before. I did not know it was not invented until 1996 and not improved to be of any ‘real’ benefit until 2003. One more reason this is not your parent’s AMD. At least the doctors and technicians can see what they are looking at much better now!

I think I said this before, too, but OCT screening can give views in 2 and 3 dimensions. You get depth as well as width and height measures of your lesions, or in my terms, divots. In GA OCT (and an ABC…XYZ to you, too!) you can see sharply delineated regions of degradation in both RPEs and photoreceptors and your choroid poses – gasp! – naked for the camera.

The article also mentions choriocapillaris and thinning and apposition of the overlying nuclear layer. Hold a moment for the translation for the rest of that. What did I EVER do without my iPad?

The capillary lamina is also called choriocapillaris. It is a layer of itsy bitsy blood vessels immediately adjacent to Bruch’s membrane. My assumption is it is below the retina but above Bruch’s membrane The drawings in Wikipedia are too small for me. [Lin/Linda: I can’t find a much bigger picture but this one shows that it is below Bruch’s membrane.]

Apposition means next to. The inner nuclear layer is, again according to Wikipedia, my highly professional source, a layer of the retina made up of closely packed cells of the three following types: bipolar cells (I wonder if they have mood swings? Ouch. Bad psychology joke), horizontal cells and amacrine cells.

Amacrine cells? No clue. That will just have me falling down another layer in the rabbit hole. I am quitting before I meet the Queen of Hearts. Off with their heads!

I will try to get through at least part of the rest of this article later. Maybe impossible but, hey…..

“Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Lewis Carroll, 1865

Written October 8th, 2017 Continue reading “Down the Rabbit Hole”

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Slogging Through Again

I am waiting for my ride to go hot air ballooning and working on deciphering an article Lin sent me. Once again the question is how much loss can we expect from dry AMD, especially geographic atrophy? Regillo told me 60 degrees of arc loss would be extreme but my local retinologist said some people in their 90s can have GA encompassing the entire retina. Ouch.  [Lin/Linda: Sue wrote about ‘degrees of arc’ in her page Love Wikipedia.]

So, here be me again, slogging through another article I about half understand. Want to slog along? I would appreciate the company!

The article is entitled Clinical Endpoints for the Study of Geographic Atrophy Secondary to Age-Related Macular Degeneration published October, 2016. You there in the home audience feel free to download it and play along!

First of all, I latched on the statement (paraphrasing) “drusen may not result in actual visual acuity loss but the effects of having drusen can be seen in functional deficits very early in the disease process”. What functional deficits?

A 2008 paper by Feng Qiu and Susan Leat found people with very early AMD have loss of “low spatial frequency static contrast sensitivity”. Yippee. Once more down the rabbit hole. It appears – according to the appendix of Emergent Techniques for Assessment of Visual Performance – spatial contrast sensitivity has to do with lighting, the place on the retina where the image is falling and something called field size as well as time factors and the orientation of the image.

Boiled down it has something to do with how sensitive we are to variations in the data our eyes are gathering. I think. Don’t hold me to it. Just know that 20/20 vision with drusen might not be as perfect as we might think.

We talked about reduced dark adaptation before and this is also a problem in early AMD. Apparently there are several effects early drusen have that have nothing to do with acuity.

The next thing I had to look up – in the same paragraph, mind you! – was information that might help me understand a statement suggesting advancement to GA from early AMD may in part depend upon the presence of “reticular pseudodrusen”. So now we have drusen impersonators????

According to Association of Pseudodrusen and Early Onset Drusen by De Bats, Wolff et al (doesn’t that team sound perfect for the Halloween season?) pseudodrusen form on top of the RPEs and not below them as do ‘real’ drusen. There seems to be a connection between having ‘eye poop’ aka drusen on top of the RPEs and early and rapid develop of advanced AMD.

And the above was all in one paragraph! I may be a very long time in deciphering this baby.

So what I have discovered so far is this: visual acuity does not tell the whole story about functional vision loss when it comes to early AMD. If you have drusen be aware your contrast sensitivity and dark adaptation are probably already compromised. Secondly, pseudodrusen, which is eye poop on top of the RPEs, can predict a more rapid and earlier progression to GA.

Have I found a thing about GA outside of the macula? Not yet, but I am still reading! Talk at ya later!

written October 7th, 2o17 Continue reading “Slogging Through Again”

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My Friend in Manila?

Happy Tuesday! Waiting for the van to go to school. Yesterday I was picked up at 6:56 to ride 9 miles and be there by 8:30. Dare I say I was not pleased? I just keep turning my mind towards acceptance (DBT alert!).

This is the way it is in my life now and I need to accept such nonsense if I am going to get where I need to go.

Today is day 61 of “your dog is dying.” We took a nearly 40 minute walk yesterday. Pretty active ‘dead’ dog. One day at a time.

I continue to monitor for information on lampalizumab. As of yesterday, September 11, all the news was still financial, but not quite as doom and gloom-ish for Hoffman-La Roche. Just sit tight on that one.

Apellis is drumming up excitement for their geographic atrophy treatment, APL-2. We talked about this before. APL-2 decreased the rate of atrophy growth 29% as compared to sham when injected monthly and 20% when injected every other month. In the second 6 months of the trial the reduction was 47% in the monthly injection group. APL-2 now appears to be the ‘show’ to watch as they go into phase 3 clinicals.

Philip Rosenfeld wrote a short blurb for healio.com. His disclosure statement said he has investments in Apellis. Either he is talking up the product, is truly sincere, or putting his money where his mouth is. In any case, Rosenfeld remarked APL-2 worked across a genetically diverse population sample. There were no stars and no non-responders.

Unfortunately, Rosenfeld also remarked that there is more of a chance of dry AMD developing into wet AMD when APL-2 is used. His opinion was it would have happened anyway in the eyes that became wet, but that will require more research.

We will keep an eye on APL-2.

10 hours later: The van came at 8:01 and had two people going to the local hospital already on it. Late for work? You could say that. Once more the shortcomings of transportation here are giving me fits.

Next, this has nothing to do with eyes but it happened to me today and I do want to mention it. I got an email from a ‘friend’ asking for a ‘favor’. Since my friend lives in Florida I was thinking it was hurricane related.

Turns out it was a scammer ‘phishing’ for money. My ‘friend’ was stuck in Manila and needed $2000. Yeah, right. I asked a couple of questions, obscure stuff that only members of the group I hung with in my 20s and 30s would know, and that was the end of the communication. Maybe my real friend was not stuck in Manila at all!

It appears many people in the world think of Americans as rich and gullible. I am definitely not the first and I try hard not to be the second. I assume it is the same for you.

If your ‘grandson’ emails or calls for ‘bail money’ from Tijuana, be sure to ask a few, HARD, identifying questions. Something that never got online. If the ‘IRS’ or the phone company or gas company or whatever calls and gives you a phone number to call with your credit card number, have someone look up the number independently and call that number to inquire.

Just another public service announcement.

Will check in again later!

written September 11th, 2017 Continue reading “My Friend in Manila?”

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Another Potential Treatment

The more I look into this, the more overwhelming it seems! I am glad I never tried to be a geneticist!

What am I talking about? The latest information on treatment for geographic atrophy suggests there is another gene being targeted. The gene is C3.

Remember how I have been saying Age-Related Macular Degeneration is looking not like one disease but like a family of diseases? When I followed up with some background research on complement factor C3, I found a list of – get this – over 3 dozen different SNPs that preliminary evidence suggests have a role in causing AMD. Remember SNPs or ‘snips’ are genetic coding errors. Some are beneficial. Some are neutral and some can really screw thing up.

Anyway, it appears there are literally dozens – if not more – of ways we can be ‘wrong’ to get AMD. Right now that means they are working on finding dozens of ways to intervene. May be a panacea sometime in the future, but right now they are nibbling at the problem a piece at a time.

And the piece they are nibbling on now is C3. According to a short article by FierceBiotech, Apellis has finished phase 2 – the proof of concept phase – trials with intravitreal injections of a drug they are calling APL-2. Later it will get a trendy brand name but for now look for APL-2.

BusinessWire identifies Apellis as a company “developing a platform of novel therapeutic compounds for the treatment of autoimmune diseases” so I guess people are coming around to see AMD as an autoimmune disease. APL-2 is described as a complement factor C inhibitor. It “binds specifically to C3 and C3b, effectively blocking all three pathways of complement activation (classic, lectin and alternative).” That sort of sounds like it is suppressing ‘friendly fire’ sooner in the process and may be closer to the ‘one treatment fits all’ that we would like to see. Not anywhere near there, but closer.

The results were very promising. At 12 months they showed a 29% reduction in growth as compared to sham.

But the weird – and great! – thing that happened was this: during the second six months of the study, the reduction rate was 47%! For some reason, the effects of the treatment appeared to be cumulative. Pretty cool.

Now I am not sure what type of genotype you have to have to profit from treatment with APL-2. The researchers are not sure at this point either. They decided to do some searching for genetic markers. Being the suspicious sort, I am wondering if they had star responders and non-responders just like they did with lampalizumab. Would make sense. Why do genetic testing on an ‘n’ of 246 people if you don’t have to? It’s expensive.

And speaking about money, there is a lot of money to be made with this drug. Apellis wants to get APL-2 to market quickly so it can compete with eculizumab, a treatment for PNH, a blood disease. (Apparently PNH is also related to complement factor C). Their competition, Soliris, was predicted to bring in more than $3 billion in 2017. Sometimes a little greed is a good thing! $3 billion can really motivated people.

So, there you go. It seems they have found one more way to save some of the sight of some of the people some of the time. Number two potential treatment for our ‘untreatable’ disease. The wall is coming down a brick at a time. There is hope.


Here’s another article about APL-2 that says “APL-2, a complement C3 inhibitor, has met its primary endpoint in its phase 2 clinical trial, reducing the rate of geographic atrophy (GA) associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).”

written August 27th, 2017 Continue reading “Another Potential Treatment”

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Geez, It’s Dark in Here!

Back again. I don’t want to scrub the floor or score a test, soooo….a page!😁

Still checking out short blurbs from Modern Retina. Rosenfeld reported that low-luminance visual acuity deficits are predictive of the rate of geographic atrophy (GA) progression. Low-luminance visual acuity is basically night vision.

Following up on this I discovered that back in 2008 Janet Sunness found GA patients who reported poor night vision were much more likely to go legally blind than their GA peers who could see better at night. These people made up the quarter of their GA patients (visual acuity of 20/50 or better) who became legally blind within four years.

I believe them but still have a couple of questions. Recovery time from being ‘blinded’ by bright light is forever for me. Leave me there and come back in an hour.

Night vision is not bad. I prefer to walk without a flashlight because I see better to navigate. How can that be considering I am one of those who became legally blind?

The study measured night vision by seeing how much could be read in low light conditions. Reading in low light, I am not so good. Maybe that is the difference.

Anyway, if you cannot afford a lot of fancy testing, seeing how much you can read at dusk may give you some idea of how bad things are going to get. Just what we want to know; right? How bad things can really be.

And in other news, inflammation remains a target for the AMD researchers. Lampalizumab, aka ‘lamp stuff’, blocks complementary factor D to help control the alternative complement pathway (that thing again!) and reduce retinal inflammation. ‘Lamp stuff’ is said to work with carriers of the complement factor I at risk allele. Considering​ Regillo wants to start poking needles in my eyes come 2018, I cannot help but wonder if I actually have that gene. I would hate to be poked in the eye every month to no good end.

Maybe I would rather use POT. 😋That’s POT 4. POT4, aka APL 2, blocks all three pathways of complement action at the same time. They are looking to develop an intravitreous shot that would be very long-term. None of this four to six weeks business.

And talking about shots, I just lost the article somewhere in this mess (not domestic goddess material; remember?) but I also read a short article taking about a new, medication delivery system they are working on in the UK. This team has been working on developing a little, bitty molecule that can permeate the layers of the eye and deliver medication to the retina through daily eye drops and not monthly shots. Not only will the people getting the shots approve, but the NHS (National Health Service) will approve because it will cut the number of office visits way down. Save money. Ka ching! [Lin/Linda: never fear, I found the article, click here.]

So there you have a review of some of the articles I pulled off of Modern Retina. They have lots in the works. Some of it is promising and some proves not to be, but they are zeroing in on treatments (plural because with a condition caused by multiple genes I believe there will be multiple avenues of attack). We are getting closer to answers. There is hope. Continue reading “Geez, It’s Dark in Here!”

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Uneventful Trip

Just came back from Walmart. When I checked the early days page Lin had published for today it was my first trip to Walmart as a visually impaired person. I would say what a coincidence but this girl has been known to ‘live’ at Walmart so it really was not.

Anyway today the trip to Walmart was….totally uneventful. Fine. No issues. I tell you this because in my cockeyed optImist (yes, there’s an upper case “I” in the middle), Pollyanna way I want to reinforce the concept there is hope. Yes, I have geographic atrophy with no scarring – just ‘no’ macular; my ‘divot’ just keeps getting bigger. And yes, I have no clue what it is like to be you in your situation.

However, for the great majority of us things can be OK with adaptations and the learning of skills.

I cannot drive myself to the store. My husband now parks near a cart corral. He makes sure I know we are down the line from the garden center or bank sign or whatever and then he turns me loose. I generally find my way back without incident. Do I wander around lost sometimes? Sure do. It is a matter of my not paying attention in the first place. I did that when I was fully sighted.

Absent mindedness is not a side effect of vision loss!

In the store I am using eccentric viewing…a lot. Although I carry my toys just in case, I seldom get them out. I have learned to use my peripheral vision and I am pretty good at finding things I need…and things I don’t need but really want. Got (another) cute pair of yoga pants and (another) cute scarf today.

There are times I have to be more careful and really LOOK. For example, I almost picked up hot sausage instead of mild today. If there are several varieties of something and the packaging is very similar you need to double-check. When you don’t drive often things don’t get returned. I have a chili potpie in the freezer that I could have sworn was beef. Been there for weeks. (Perhaps this is an opportunity to expand my horizons?)

I use a lot of habit learning. The credit card machine is now easy. That is habit training. I pretty much know what comes up next. Press the same buttons all of the time.

And if I don’t know or cannot see it, I ask. Sometimes I admit I am visually impaired. Those are generally the times when I know a full sighted person would have been able to figure it out and I don’t want to look like an idiot. Other times I just don’t bother to ask.

Nobody thinks the less of you if you cannot find something like the honey. Fully sighted people ask questions like that, too!

So there you go. One more page about my uneventful life. Stay tuned. Next I might write about watching paint dry!

Written May 28th, 2017

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