Silencing a Gene in the Eye

Medical Authors and Editors: Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D. and Frederick Hecht, M.D.

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that destroys the central vision. The disease occurs most commonly in people over 60 and is called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD can occur in two forms -- dry and wet. Wet AMD is a leading cause of blindness and affects more than a million people in the US.

Wet AMD occurs when new blood vessels behind the retina start to grow toward the macula, the spot where vision is keenest. Because these new blood vessels are very fragile, they often leak blood and fluid under the macula. This damages the macula in such a way that loss of central vision can occur in a short period of time.

There have been reports that taking supplements of zinc and antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene may slow the progression of wet AMD. In some cases, wet AMD can be treated with laser surgery. The treatment involves aiming a high energy beam of light directly onto the leaking blood vessels to seal them.

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