Research

Not being one to be told there’s nothing I can do about something, I went back to my research. There seem to be a couple of different avenues of research. They were working on lasers to blast the drusen, aka piles of eye-poop but it looked to me like a hoarder intervention. Somebody comes in and cleans up the mess one time. Problem solved for now but not later. They would have a clean place to live but would eventually start to become messy again. The second thing I found looked more like the Merry Maids that were cleaning up regularly. However, it did not solve the problem of who is going to feed the Master photoreceptors? The third option was to essentially put the RPE Servants that were left on steroids. The live ones would work harder but would that not mean they wear out more quickly?

Click here for a list of clinical trials studying dry AMD

There’s research focused on cleaning up the ‘eye-poop’ called drusen.

There was one I liked, OCATA, originally known as Advanced Cell Therapy (ACT) , that was trying to replace RPEs. They were actually giving the little guys some help in order to save the Master photoreceptors. The way they were doing this was with stem cells.

There’s research using stem cells to replace the RPEs.

Although some people see stem cell research as cutting up dead babies, this is not the case. There are several lines of stem cells that have been derived from fertilized eggs that were never implanted. Some of these lines of stem cells are 20 years old. They have been massaged and manipulated so that there would never be the possibility that they could become functioning human beings. If they were not being used for research they would be flushed down the proverbial toilet.

Stem cells can be harvested from old fertilized eggs not dead babies.

The research that interested me–and still interests me–involves stem cells that have been developed specifically to become RPE cells. The theory is that replacing RPE cells with new ones and giving the little Servant guys some help will allow more photoreceptors to live and turn light into sight.

So where, pray tell, does one find someone to do this procedure? The problem is that this is very new research. It has worked on rats and other traditional lab animals (and you college psychology students, I am not speaking of sophomores). However, work on human subjects is just beginning. At the time of this writing, hospitals in Florida, Massachusetts, California and Pennsylvania as well as in foreign locales such as London and China have only completed phase 1 research. Phase 1 of any clinical study is the safety and tolerability portion.

Warning: there are doctors and clinics in the US that are offering costly stem cell treatments that have NOT been proven safe or effective through research.  Before you enter into any stem cell treatment, please do your homework!  Click here for an excellent article called Nine Things to Know About Stem Cell Treatments.

Click here for current research using stem cells for Macular Degeneration

Phase 1 results have been extremely promising. For those who are capable of using the web, there is a Lancet article by Schwartz and Regillo that summarizes the study. Essentially, they found the stem cells did not do anything strange or different when implanted in eyes. Preliminary data suggested that it was safe and tolerable. Even more exciting, they found positive therapeutic effects. A great number of the people who had volunteered and participated in the study showed cessation of deterioration and even improvement.

Phase 1 trials using stem cells is VERY promising.

So why not replace the photoreceptors as well as the RPEs? After all, when the RPEs die, the photoreceptors die. Would it not be reasonable to replace them both?

Unfortunately, medical science is not to this point as of yet. They have been successful in growing photoreceptors in the lab. They have been successful in implanting photoreceptors in the eyes of rats. The only problem is that these will not connect into the neural net. It’s sort of like having invented a cell phone without having a tower for it to work through. You can talk on your phone all day but the message goes nowhere.

They can grow photoreceptors in the lab, implanting them in rats but they won’t connect to the neural net.

That said, they are still working on it very diligently. Some of the literature suggests that it will be quite awhile. However, it will be coming.

If you are interested in seeing some of the studies that are being done on eyes and other medical research, I would invite you to go to the clinical trials website. It is a government website that lists all sorts of fascinating things. Many of them are looking for clients.

You will discover that there are dozens, if not more, of studies that are related to eyes. There are multiple studies related to Age-Related Macular Degeneration. So why would that be?

Someone, I am not remembering who at the moment, has launched the Audacious Goal Project. The Audacious Goal Project is aiming to eradicate blindness in the lifetime of some of you younger folks.

Click here to learn more about the Audacious Goal Challenge in Vision Research and Blindness.

Like the name says it is an audacious goal!

Why now?

And questioning again, why now? What is happening that vision is such a hot topic that we need a national program to deal with blindness?

The truth of the matter is, the pig through the population python is getting towards the end. We baby boomers from the 50s and the 60s have always presented challenges. We have always been very popular and our hot topics have been the topics of the nation. When I was a little girl, they were building elementary schools left and right. Then everything was sweet 16 and on through my lifespan. Right now, everything is security call buttons and retirement accounts. We drive the economy.

We baby boomers from the 50s and 60s have always presented challenges.

Because there are so many of us, our concerns are essential. One of our big concerns is vision. According to my research, AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. In the United States alone there are as many as 11 million people who have some form of AMD.  They are predicting there will be 22 million by 2050! 

This is going to be a massive drain on the country. When somebody suddenly realized what the numbers were going to look like, they decided they had better do something to ameliorate the problem. Thus, all the research.

Click here for more facts & figures

As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration. This number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050.

Next: Where All Roads Lead

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