Emerging Treatment Stabilizes Vision in People with Dry AMD

An innovative technology, employing a tiny capsule implanted in the eye, is stabilizing vision in people suffering from dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Encapsulated Cell Technology (ECT), developed by Rhode Island-based Neurotech, preserved vision in a majority of the 51 people who participated in a Phase II clinical trial.

There are currently no treatments for dry AMD, which is a leading cause of blindness for people 55 and older in developed countries.

"These are very encouraging results for this treatment approach," said Stephen Rose, Ph.D., chief research officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness. "Neurotech's Encapsulated Cell Technology has the potential to preserve the vision of millions of people with dry AMD. Finding treatment options for people with dry AMD is a key goal for FFB."

"The Foundation has been a pivotal funding source for the development of ECT, and we are very pleased with the success of this dry AMD clinical study," said William T. Schmidt, chief executive officer, Foundation Fighting Blindness. "This is great news for our members and the millions around the world affected with dry AMD."

Neurotech reported that 96.3 percent of participants receiving the high dose treatment had stable vision over a 12-month period. People with better visual acuity at the start of the treatment — 20/63 or better — appeared to benefit most.

The company also noted that people with stabilized vision had increased thickening of their retinas — an indication that the treatment was increasing the health and population of photoreceptors, which are essential for vision.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness funded preclinical studies of ECT, and is currently funding two Phase II/III clinical studies of the treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, Usher syndrome, and choroideremia. Results of these two trials will be announced at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology taking place May 3-7.

The ECT implant is a tiny device — the size of a grain of rice — that contains cells which provide sustained delivery of a vision-preserving protein known as ciliary neurotrophic factor.