CINCINNATI, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— People with age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, lose the central field of their vision, making objects look blurry. There are both “wet” and “dry” forms of AMD, but for patients with the “dry” form, there has been no approved medical treatment. Now, researchers are testing a cell replacement therapy that may save, or even improve, eyesight.
Cheri McDaniel turned her love of baking into a thriving business, but as her vision began to blur, running Ms. Cheri’s became a challenge.
“When customers would walk in, I would not be able to distinguish their facial features,” Cheri recalled.
Doctors diagnosed Cheri with the dry form of age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Christopher Riemann is among a handful of retinal surgeons testing an investigational therapy for dry AMD called OpRegen— a one-time replacement of human retinal pigment epithelium, or RPE cells, done under local anesthesia.
“We’re taking a slurry of those cells and we’re injecting them into the space under the retina where they’re missing,” described Christopher Riemann, MD, a vitreoretinal surgeon at Cincinnati Eye Institute.
Just a few days after the injection, Cheri noticed a difference in her vision— and called the office.
“I could see without using my magnifying glass! Cause I was just so excited,” Cheri shared.
“We’re always very alert if a phase one patient calls, and I’m about having a heart attack, ‘what do we do, what’s going on?’ … And she’s crying tears of joy!” recalled Dr. Riemann.
Doctors aren’t sure how much vision Cheri will regain. But for starters, the improvements mean she can help behind the counter of her namesake shop without a struggle.
“If it can help me, and then next time it’ll help somebody else, and it keeps on going? Then there you go,” expressed Cheri.
Cheri McDaniel sold Ms. Cheri’s Donuts a few years ago when she and her husband were both having health challenges. Her friend, De’Ann now owns the shop and has kept the original name, and Cheri still shares her recipes. OpRegen is being tested in a phase 1-2A clinical trial to determine safety. So far, researchers say the treatment has been well-tolerated.
Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.
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TOPIC: MS. CHERI SEES AGAIN! NEW TREATMENT FOR AGE-RELATED DRY MACULAR DEGENERATION
REPORT: MB #4903
BACKGROUND: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) causes you to lose your central vision. However, your peripheral vision is still normal. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in people 50 years or older and is very common. There are two types of AMD: dry and wet. About 80 percent of people who have AMD have the dry form. Dry AMD happens when parts of the macula get thinner with age and tiny clumps of protein, called drusen, grow causing you to lose central vision. There is currently no way to treat dry AMD. Wet AMD occurs when new, abnormal blood vessels grow under the retina and may leak blood or other fluids, causing scarring of the macula. You lose vision faster with wet AMD than with dry AMD. Many people don’t realize they have AMD until their vision is very blurry.
DIAGNOSIS AND RISK: An ophthalmologist may have you look at an Amsler grid, or grid that helps you notice any blurry, distorted, or blank spots in your field of vision. They will also look inside the eye through a special lens to see if there are changes in the retina and macula. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is another way to look at the retina closely. A machine scans the retina and provides very detailed images. Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) is another way to look at the blood vessels in and under the retina. Fluorescein angiography may be used where a yellow dye is injected into a vein, usually in the arm, and travels through the blood vessels while a special camera takes photos of the retina. This shows if abnormal new blood vessels are growing under the retina. Some risks of AMD include family history, smoking cigarettes, eating a diet high in saturated fat, are overweight, have high blood pressure, or are over 50 years old.
NEW TREATMENTS FOR AMD: Researchers are looking for a more consistent treatment that will help people keep more of their vision. “Today, more durable therapies are coming out, and treatments that may even cure the disease are in the works. There’s a lot of hope for people with AMD,” said Jayanth Sridhar, MD, an assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Gene therapy is a promising alternative to ongoing eye injections. The goal of gene therapy is to provide a ‘one-and-done’ treatment by helping the eye make its own anti-VEGF medicine. Another promising approach is a refillable drug reservoir. The port delivery system (PDS) is a tiny refillable device that stores the anti-VEGF drug and releases drug to the back of the eye over time. Another treatment is using the drug, faricimab, which targets both VEGF and the protein angiopoietin-2. It’s injected into the eye and lasts a lot longer. Another concept under investigation is the possibility of replacing some cells that begin to die in late-stage dry AMD. Stem cells may be able to replace the retinal cells that are killed off by this disease. Doctors are devising ways to transplant these stem cells into the eye.
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