News archive 2009
Potential breakthrough for treating blindness07 Jul 2009, PR 141/09
A ground-breaking laser treatment developed by Professor John Marshall from the Rayne Institute at King’s College London, could help reverse the effects of AMD (age-related macular degeneration) the leading cause of blindness in over 60s in the western world.
Improvements to sight were reported in early proof of concept trials. AMD affects more than 200,000 people in the UK and attacks the central vision. It develops when a membrane at the back of the eye becomes clogged with natural waste materials produced by the light-sensitive cells, which clouds vision. In youthful eyes, enzymes clear away the debris, but as the ageing process sets in this system can fail.
The painless "short pulse" laser works by boosting the release of the enzymes to clean away the waste without damaging the cells that enable us to see. Early tests proved promising in around 50 people with diabetic eye disease - chosen as a model because the problems develop faster than in AMD.
Professor Marshall now plans more studies in patients already suffering from AMD in one eye with the aim of saving the sight in their better eye for as long as possible. He said once people have advanced AMD in one eye, studies show the condition usually develops in the second eye in 18 months to three years.
'If you can delay the onset by three, four, six, seven or 10 years, it's proof of the principle, he said. What this laser is doing is trying to treat the underlying ageing process, as it were, reset the clock so that you don't have the manifestations of visual loss.'
He said the aim was to prevent damage and preserve their sight for the rest of their lives. Professor Marshall said he hoped the treatment would be available within two to five years and one day people in their 40s who have a family history of AMD could choose to have the treatment as a way of preventing the onset of the condition.
Tom Pey, director of external affairs for Guide Dogs for the Blind, which funded the research, said: 'This is potentially a huge breakthrough for millions of people across the world.'
Notes to editors
King's College London
King's College London is one of the top 25 universities in the world (Times Higher Education 2008) and the fourth oldest in England. A research-led university based in the heart of London, King's has more than 21,000 students from nearly 140 countries, and more than 5,700 employees. King's is in the second phase of a £1 billion redevelopment programme which is transforming its estate.
King's has an outstanding reputation for providing world-class teaching and cutting-edge research. In the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for British universities, 23 departments were ranked in the top quartile of British universities; over half of our academic staff work in departments that are in the top 10 per cent in the UK in their field and can thus be classed as world leading. The College is in the top seven UK universities for research earnings and has an overall annual income of nearly £450 million.
King's has a particularly distinguished reputation in the humanities, law, the sciences (including a wide range of health areas such as psychiatry, medicine and dentistry) and social sciences including international affairs. It has played a major role in many of the advances that have shaped modern life, such as the discovery of the structure of DNA and research that led to the development of radio, television, mobile phones and radar. It is the largest centre for the education of healthcare professionals in Europe; no university has more Medical Research Council Centres.
King's College London and Guy's and St Thomas', King's College Hospital and South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trusts are part of King's Health Partners. King's Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) is a pioneering global collaboration between one of the world's leading research-led universities and three of London's most successful NHS Foundation Trusts, including leading teaching hospitals and comprehensive mental health services. For more information, visit: www.kingshealthpartners.org.
Kate Moore, Public Relations Officer (Health Schools)
Public Relations Department
Tel: 020 7848 4334
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