A ground-breaking laser treatment could prevent millions of older people from going blind, experts believe.
The technique helps reverse the effects of age-related macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in over 60s in the western world.
Developed by pioneering eye expert Professor John Marshall of King’s College London, the laser returns the back of the eye to its youthful state.
Improvements to sight were reported in early proof of concept trials.
AMD affects more than 200,000 people in the UK and attacks the central vision.
It develops when a membrane at the back of the eye becomes clogged with natural waste materials produced by the light-sensitive cells, which clouds vision.
In youthful eyes, enzymes clear away the debris, but as the ageing process sets in this system can fail.
The painless “short pulse” laser works by boosting the release of the enzymes to clean away the waste without damaging the cells that enable us to see.
Early tests proved promising in around 50 people with diabetic eye disease – chosen as a model because the problems develop faster than in AMD. … nce people have advanced AMD in one eye, studies show the condition usually develops in the second eye in 18 months to three years.
“If you can delay the onset by three, four, six, seven or 10 years, it’s proof of the principle,” he said.
“What this laser is doing is trying to treat the underlying ageing process, as it were, reset the clock so that you don’t have the manifestations of visual loss.”
He said the aim was to prevent damage and preserve their sight for the rest of their lives.