Preventing Age-Related Macular Degeneration … Finally!


PHOENIX, Ariz. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than 11 million people in the U.S. suffer from age-related macular degeneration or AMD, according to the Brightfocus Foundation. Now, a team of researchers believes Levodopa can delay onset of the disease, or even prevent it from happening at all.

Howard Morrow, 85, enjoys days with his wife Joyce and dog Oliver. But his age-related macular degeneration or AMD has progressed to the more serious “wet” form. Now, he gets injections to slow the disease.

“It’s a big pain once a month to get in your car with your wife and go down there and spend half a day in the medical office and then for a day and a half, you’re very uncomfortable,” Morrow told Ivanhoe.

Losing vision is a terrible prospect for a former fighter pilot. So Howard is thrilled about the AMD trial.

University of Arizona researcher Brian McKay’s team analyzed health records of 87 million patients, tracking their response to Levodopa, a Parkinson’s disease drug.

“We both reduce the risk of ever developing the disease and so the incidence was lower and also showed that if you were taking L-dopa for a movement disorder, you developed AMD much later.” Brian S. McKay, PhD, Director of Basic Research, SW Center for Age-Related Eye Diseases, Associate Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science at the University of Arizona explained to Ivanhoe. (Read Full Interview)

If they did, onset was delayed by nine years. We make Levodopa in tissue pigment. It helps keep our eye’s macula healthy. Professor McKay says taking Levodopa pills keeps the pigmentation pathway active, protecting people from AMD.

“I think we can cure this disease. I think we can prevent it and I think we can actively keep people from having all those injections.” McKay stated.

Howard is happy to make a toast to that.

Fair-haired, fair skinned people with light colored eyes have less pigment and are more affected by AMD. Fourteen percent of Caucasians over the age of 80 have it, compared to less than four percent of African-Americans, Hispanics, and other minorities.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:         MB #4292

BACKGROUND: Macular degeneration is considered an incurable eye disease and the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. It is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, which is the inner back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them from the eye to the brain via our optic nerve. The central portion of the retina, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, it controls the ability to recognize faces or color, see objects in fine detail, and drive a car. When the center deteriorates, images are not received correctly. In early stages, macular degeneration does not affect vision. However, later as the disease progresses, people experience blurred or wavy vision. If the condition worsens, a patient’s central vision may be completely lost. People with very advanced forms of this disease are considered legally blind, even though they retain their peripheral vision because the retina is still working, it is not as clear as their central vision was. The two basic types of macular degeneration are dry and wet, and there are three stages; early, intermediate, and late.


TREATMENT: The treatment for early dry AMD is usually nutritional therapy, supported by a healthy diet high in antioxidants to support the cells of the macula. If AMD advances further, but remains dry, supplements are prescribed to add higher quantities of certain minerals and vitamins which may increase healthy pigments and support cell structure. Until recently the only available treatment to seal leaking blood vessels associated with wet AMD was with a laser. Now there is an intravitreal injection of a chemical called “anti-VEGF.” VEGF stands for vascular endothelial growth factor. In a healthy human body, VEGF supports the growth of new blood vessels. In macular health, though, VEGF is unhealthy, promoting the growth of new, weak blood vessels behind the retina which leak into the retinal layers. So this anti-VEGF injection therapy may help prevent this leakage.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Research is showing that a pill commonly used to treat Parkinson’s disease may prevent or delay age-related macular degeneration. Levodopa is turned into a dopamine, which is used by the body of someone who has Parkinson’s because Parkinson’s disease is associated with low levels of dopamine. Patients in the trial for macular degeneration and Levodopa’s effect on them were less likely to get AMD and if they did, onset was delayed by an average of nine years. A healthy patient makes levodopa in tissue pigment, which helps keep the eye’s macula healthy. Taking the Levodopa pills keeps the pigmentation pathway active, protecting people from developing AMD. There are three Levodopa trials currently running at the University of Arizona. Details can be found on the website


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Brian S McKay

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