Many people with macular degeneration find the treatment methods for the eye disorder to be ineffective or cause unwanted side effects. This is why a new treatment method found by Jinglin Huang, a graduate student in medical engineering at Caltech, has caught the attention of many health care providers.
Because the disease develops as a person ages, it is often referred to as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Although macular degeneration is rarely a blinding condition, it can be a source of significant visual disability.
Age-related macular degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the retina and can severely impair vision by resulting in the center of the visual field being blurred or fully blacked out. The disorder usually starts as “dry” AMD, where the macula thins with age. This affects the central part of the retina, responsible for sending information about focused light to the brain to create a detailed picture. Dry AMD is very common but is not treatable.
Dry AMD may eventually evolve into “wet” AMD, which is more likely to result in vision loss. Approximately 10% of patients who have dry AMD will develop wet AMD. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow on the retina, leaking fluids under the macula.
Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Agents
The treatments for wet AMD can include injections of medicine called anti-vascular endothelial growth factor agents into the eye. But this injection has been linked with unwanted side effects and ineffectiveness. Therefore, Huang suggests a thermally induced fluid mixing may be an effective approach for improving the treatment. She has suggested that ineffective fluid mixing of the injected medicine and the gel within the eye may be to blame for the side effects.
“Because thermally induced mixing in the vitreous chamber can promote the formation of a circulation flow structure, this can potentially serve the drug delivery process,” Huang said. “Since the half-life of the drug is limited, this thermally induced mixing approach ensures that more drug of high potency can reach the target tissue.”
Huang explained in her presentation “Thermal Effects on Fluid Mixing in the Eye,” that no changes in the injection procedure are needed. An additional heating step after the injection is all that is required.
“It can potentially reduce the amount of drug injected into the vitreous,” said Huang. “It is definitely easy to be implemented.”
As there are limited treatments for macular degeneration and many of those available are limited or come with unwanted side effects, Huang and her colleagues hope this work will inspire eye doctors to develop better treatment techniques. If you have macular degeneration, you’ll need to monitor your eyesight carefully and see your eye doctor regularly.