Be part of the future of macular researchSeptember 6, 2019
CERA is devoted to discovering better treatments for age-related macular degeneration. To do this, clinical research is essential – and the patients who participate play an invaluable role.
As we age, our eyes go through some changes. For one in seven people over the age of 50, this includes signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The macula, the small central area of the retina at the back of the eye, is responsible for our sharp central vision. AMD occurs when the light-sensitive cells of the macula gradually break down, leading to blurred central vision. This can make it difficult to read, recognise faces, drive and perform other everyday activities.
As the disease advances, vision loss can become more serious. AMD is the leading cause of legal blindness and severe vision loss in Australia, responsible for 50% of all cases.
“Our research aims to improve our understanding of macular degeneration and discover treatment options,” says Professor Robyn Guymer AM, Head of Macular Research and Deputy Director at CERA.
“We have a good treatment for wet AMD, the most devastating form of the disease, where vision loss can be sudden and dramatic – though there are still trials to find better treatments.
“But there is currently no treatment for dry AMD, which develops slowly and results in gradual vision loss.
“That’s why clinical trials are so important – that’s what will help us find an answer.”
Macular research at CERA
The Macular Research team at CERA is investigating many aspects of the disease – such as genetics, environmental associations, biomarkers of AMD, and the risk factors for progression from early AMD to advanced.
A large recent study, the Laser Intervention in Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration (LEAD) trial, studied 300 people with AMD and found promising results using nanosecond laser technology to slow the progression of the disease. Future trials will continue the investigation of new laser treatments.
“We’re also interested in following people with macular degeneration over time to learn more about who is at the greatest risk of losing vision,” Professor Guymer says.
“For this type of research there is no treatment involved, but we monitor people with a range of novel instruments that aren’t widely available elsewhere.”
Why take part in a clinical trial?
By getting involved in a clinical trial, you can play an important part in the future of eye health.
“Clinical trials help us advance our knowledge of the disease, so that we can help more people with better treatments in the future,” Professor Guymer says.
“The diseases we look at are often inherited, so a lot of people join our clinical trials with the idea that they can contribute to discoveries that may help their family members one day.”
Clinical trials can also provide access to new interventions before they are widely available, in many cases participants may receive a treatment that could help their condition.
“We’d love to hear from anyone with AMD,” Professor Guymer says. “In particular, we’re looking for people with dry AMD, and people with high risk early disease, who haven’t lost vision yet but have drusen, which tells us someone is at a greater risk of vision loss from AMD.”
You can register your interest in clinical trials on the CERA website. The more information you can provide about your eye condition and history, the easier it is for CERA researchers to determine if there is a trial you might be suitable for.
This story appears in the spring 2019 issue of Visionary magazine. Download a pdf copy or subscribe to receive free in the mail.