Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of severe visual loss in Europe and North America and, with an ageing population, the burden of this disease is projected to increase dramatically.
As its name suggests AMD predominantly affects the macula, the centre of vision that is important for reading and detailed vision. It can be classified into early and late stages based on specific clinical features. Early AMD is characterised by the presence of drusen (tiny yellowish deposits under the retina) and is compatible with reasonable vision. However, many patients with early AMD progress to the vision-threatening late forms of AMD.
The late ‘wet’ or neovascular form is characterised by the growth and leak of abnormal blood vessels beneath the macula causing severe loss of vision.
Currently, we have treatments for late neovascular AMD but these involve an intensive intervention with frequent injections into the eye and long-term monthly follow-up of the patient, which is problematic to deliver, and only a third of patients recover some of their lost vision. We have no effective treatments for the late dry atrophic form of AMD, or effective interventions for early AMD.