How you would feel if you could not see your grandchild's face?

This is what happens to the increasing number of people who suffer from Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of blindness in Australia's ageing population.

Catherine is one of those people who suffer from AMD. Every 6 weeks for the past 6 years, she has had to gather her courage and brave an injection into her right eye. Each time she knows this is saving her sight. Without it, Catherine would be blind. 

 

Catherine was raised on a cattle farm in Harrisville near Ipswich Queensland, and grew up with six siblings. A proud grandmother to five, beautiful grandchildren, her greatest hope for the future is being able to watch them grow. To do this Catherine needs her eyesight. 

Currently, the standard treatment for wet AMD is regular injections into the eye. The treatment does not cure the disease but stabilises and maintains the best vision for as long as possible. The earlier the disease is detected, the more vision you are likely to maintain. Luckily for Catherine, she was diagnosed early.

The optometrist picked up something in a test that was impacting my vision, and immediately referred me to Associate Professor Anthony Kwan at QEI for further testing.”

I was only 65. I was terrified that like my grandmother I could be going blind.”

Associate Professor Kwan’s tests confirmed that Catherine had both wet and dry AMD.

It was then that Dr Kwan explained the type of treatment I required to save my sight. I thought it was absolutely ghastly. I couldn’t think about anything worse. I was absolutely petrified.”

Since Catherine started receiving her injections, her vision loss has slowed down, and the wet AMD is under control, however she still has vision loss from her dry AMD. 

With your help, the Queensland Eye Institute scientists have a very real chance of making advances in treating this disease.

Currently there is no effective treatment for dry AMD anywhere in the world. However, right at this moment, a huge amount of medical research is being done to find a treatment. Associate Professor Damien Harkin, in a joint appointment between the Queensland Eye Institute and the Queensland University of Technology, has been working on a new treatment for AMD.

The research is focused on developing a cell-based therapy for AMD, based upon the cultivation and implantation of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. 

These RPE cells are essential to the health of the normal macula but are lost in AMD, especially the dry form. Therefore replacing these lost cells with healthy ones grown in the laboratory is being attempted in an effort to rescue the retina from further vision loss.

A novel aspect being used is the use of a protein derived from silk fibres from silkworm cacoons known as ‘fibroin’, as a scaffold on which to grow and implant the RPE cells. The fibroin scaffold being used is in the form of a thin transparent membrane that resembles a sheet of cellophane. 

Our scientists have found that the fibroin membrane supports the growth and essential functions of human RPE cells in the laboratory. The goal of this research is to show that RPE cells grown on fibroin membrane can repair the types of damage to the macula. 

It is not a cure but it's likely to reduce or perhaps halt the progression of dry AMD.  
Please donate now so we can continue our research into AMD and more people like Catherine will not have to suffer a life with visual impairment and possible blindness.

We believe we are close to unravelling this mystery through medical research. With your help, we believe it will be possible in our lifetime. 

Donate to our MEDICAL RESEARCH online now