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The Quest to Cure Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

SriniVas Sadda, MD

President & Chief Scientific Officer

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This month I am pleased to share with you the very welcome news of a significant breakthrough in the quest to cure age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

A global team of scientists has been able to confirm that dark spots that appear within drusen — deposits that are characteristic of AMD — represent nodules of calcification. Five years ago, at Doheny, we first identified that these dark spots within drusen were important features signifying a high-risk for progression to advanced AMD and vision loss. At the time we didn’t know what these dark spots were made of or what to do about them.  Having built steadily on that work published five years ago, in collaboration with this global team, we understand the composition of these dark spots. Now, we may be able to finally design specific treatments to prevent or eliminate these abnormalities.

Age-related macular degeneration remains the leading cause of blindness in the US and in much of the world. It is also enormously expensive to treat, at a cost of $343 billion worldwide. So our determined focus to understand and eliminate this disease is a priority at Doheny, as well as at many of our peer institutions. Two of our research labs, under the direction of Ram Kannan and Yuhua Zhang, are devoted singularly to this work.

The Doheny team working toward this most recent breakthrough collaborated with colleagues in Belfast, Alabama, Singapore, and New York. I mention the global teamwork because it illustrates fully how international cooperation continues to accelerate the pace of our work.

For me, this advance is personally exciting, because early in my career I could offer little hope for patients who suffered with wet macular degeneration. We knew that the available laser treatments would make vision worse in the short term, and only nominally better in the long term. That was never optimal. Injectable agents targeting abnormal blood vessels have improved prognoses; and this latest news points to even more potential for earlier intervention.

Targeting early interventions is critical. Retinal degenerative diseases can seldom be reversed; so the more information early diagnostics can offer, the better outcomes patients are likely to realize in treatment. We do this work precisely for that reason: to save vision for our patients.

This holiday season, our gratitude for your support is very real. These advances occur because we have the resources to support world-class researchers at the very cutting-edge of vision science.

I’m delighted to share this news with you. Next month, I’ll let you know what is on the horizon for 2019.

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