The ideal way to deal with a disease like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is to prevent it from causing vision loss in the first place. For example, Dr. Barbel Rohrer is developing a Foundation-funded drug that slows retinal degeneration, and resulting vision loss, by bolstering the energy supply of cells in the retina.
In the case of advanced AMD, emerging stem cell treatments, such as those being developed by Drs. David Gamm, Tom Rhea and Robin Ali, may be optimal. They will provide new photoreceptors, the cells in the retina that provide vision, to replace those that have been lost.
But in the interim, as these treatment approaches are being developed, there is an innovative device available that can enhance vision for people with advanced AMD. Known as the implantable miniature telescope (IMT), the device is surgically placed in the eye, where it focuses images onto the area of the patient’s retina that is still functional.
Usually in AMD, a person loses central and color vision and the ability to see details because of degeneration to the macula, the central region of the retina. However, his or her peripheral retina remains intact. The IMT focuses images from a patient’s central field of vision onto the peripheral retina, thereby improving central vision. In other words, the IMT enables AMD patients to use their peripheral retinas for central vision.
We reported on this technology previously, when it was approved by the FDA in 2010. But a recent news release from the University of California, Irvine inspired me to report on it again.
While preventing or halting vision loss is a more elegant approach to treating AMD, the IMT has the advantage of being available now.