A phase 2 clinical trial for the treatment of a severe form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) called geographic atrophy (GA) has become the first study to show the benefit of a therapy to slow the progression of vision loss for this disease. The results highlight the benefit of the use of a neurotrophic factor to treat GA and provide hope to nearly one million Americans suffering from GA. The multi-center research team, including Dr. Kang Zhang, of the University of California, San Diego, Shiley Eye Center, the lead author of the paper and one of the leading investigators in the study, found that long-term delivery of ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF) served to re-nourish the retina and stop or slow the loss of visual acuity caused by the disorder. The results were published online on March 28, 2011, in PNAS. According to Dr. Zhang -- professor of ophthalmology and human genetics at the UCSD School of Medicine and director of UCSD's Institute of Genomic Medicine – there is currently no effective treatment for dry AMD or GA, though there is a very big need. "This could open the door to long-term treatment of dry AMD, using a simple surgical procedure." AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans age 60 and older. It is a disease that causes cells in the macula – the part of the eye that allows us to see in fine detail – to die. There are two forms of the disorder, wet and dry AMD. GA is considered the end stage of dry AMD, where central vision is lost. According to the National Eye Institute, wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. These new blood vessels tend to be very fragile and often leak blood and fluid. The blood and fluid raise the macula from its normal place at the back of the eye, resulting in rapid loss of central version.
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