Fighting Macular Degeneration With Cell Therapy
Cell Therapy and Macular Degeneration
Macular Degeneration (MD) or Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the third leading cause of blindness after cataract and glaucoma and is common in the elderly people of age 60 and older. The risk of advancement of MD increases with age. The disesase is the common form of irreversible blindness occurring mostly in people of developed countries.
In U.S. it is estimated that there are 11 million people to have any form of macular degeneration and it will increase approximately to 22 million by 2050 according to World Health Organization . It is an age related (increases with age) disease, which causes loss of central vision.
MD is characterised by blurred or no vision from the center of the eye(s) due to reduced blood flow at the macular (central) part of the eye.
Treatment Options for Macular Degeneration
There is no well-defined treatment for MD that is presently available.
Though some pharmacological treatments for neovascular macular degeneration are available.
These include drug therapy such as verteporfin photodynamic therapy and pegaptanib sodium intravitreal injection.
Anti VEGF antibody, Ranibizumab are also used for treatment of MD.
However, these drugs and treatment do not target degeneration inherent in macular portion, also after discontinuation of these treatments, higher recurrence rate of macular degeneration are seen. Surgical procedure has also proved less effective in improving vision.
Therefore there is a wide interest and need exist for regenerative or bio-molecular cell based therapy in macular portion for treatment of different forms of MD.
Recently, cell therapy based medical treatments seem promising to alleviate the problems associated with retinal degeneration. There is much excitement about the potential of cell therapies, especially those that are regenerative based, proof to be a valuable alternative source to lessen visual impairment problems integrated with macular degeneration.
One of the first areas of success when using cell-based therapies will be in the treatment of macular degeneration according to experts in the field of regenerative medicine.
The eye remains a good target for cell therapy as it is relatively self-contained and is able to keep cells from travelling to other parts of the body.
What Is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration (MD) or Age related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an eye related medical condition, which results in the blurred or no vision in the central part of the retina eye.
MD is characterised by the progressive deposition of yellow colored drusen (extracellular lipids and proteins) on the central part of retina between the retinal pigment epithelium and the choroid. Deposition of drusen mainly by amyloid beta protein is believed to damage the retina of eye.
Depending upon the size and number of drusen in retina, MD is differentiated into early, intermediate and late stages. Persons with medium size drusen and no pigmentation abnormalities are considered to have early macular degeneration while persons with either large drusen or retinal pigment abnormalities or both are considered to be having medium macular degeneration.
Late Macular Degeneration
Late MD is characterised by presence of drusen and enough retinal (macula) damage causing central loss of vision. Once the vision is lost there is no cure or treatment that could return vision, which is already lost.
Late MD is further categorised into Dry Macular Degeneration or Geographic Atrophy and Wet Macular Degeneration based on the type of damage occurs.
Dry MD is marked by gradual breakdown of light sensitive cells and supporting tissue beneath macula leading to vision loss.
Wet MD is marked by growth of abnormal blood vessels beneath retina, these leads to bleeding, leakage and scar, causing swelling and damage of macula. Patient at this stage are prone to rapid vision loss.
Risk factors for MD are environmental and lifestyle habits. Smoking has a strong association with the disease progression with addition to hypertension, atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, obesity, fat intake and exposure to sunlight (Ultraviolet rays).
Genetic factors such as family history or genetic tendencies towards macular degeneration, pigmentation degree (light colour eyes are highly risky) and malnutrition with a non-balanced diet are other factors, which lead to macular degeneration.
There are studies indicating the association of vision loss with the higher prevalence of chronic health conditions, fall and injuries as well as depression and social isolation especially for this vulnerable aging group.
The condition needs to be addressed in the early stages at best and if left untreated for a longer period of time, it can lead to irreversible blindness.
To conclude, change in lifestyle and having a balanced diet, especially food supplement promoting vision is helpful to decrease or prevent macular degeneration. Avoid risk factor promoting the disease, such as prevention of smoking are evident to reduce incidence of MD.
Retardation of the progression of the disease is found to be influenced by palliative care treatments. Intravitreous drugs, lasers, dynamic phototherapy and surgery are most common treatment option, which decelerates the disease advancement in macular degeneration patients.
Today with the advancement in the field of regenerative medicine, cell therapies offered a promising alternative to manage or reverse the disease.
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