Signs of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may be found through blood tests, according to a new study led by researchers based in Massachusetts.
The test, developed by scientists at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, could save people’s sight by picking it up before symptoms begin, allowing them to get vital injections earlier.
The study, published online in Ophthalmology, is based on 87 fatty proteins which were linked to the eye disease in 90 patients.
Co-author Dr Joan Miller, chief of ophthalmology at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a professor at Harvard Medical School, said: "Because the signs and symptoms of early stage AMD are very subtle, with visual symptoms only becoming apparent at more advanced stages of the disease, identification of biomarkers in human blood plasma may allow us to better understand the early to intermediate stages of AMD so we may intervene sooner, and ultimately provide better care."
The US researchers took blood samples from 90 people with early, intermediate and late-stage AMD and 30 who were free of the disease to check for common markers in their blood.
They found 87 tiny molecules, most of which were fatty proteins called lipids, present at significantly different levels in the blood of people with AMD.
It is believed lipids, of which cholesterol is one type, may help to cause AMD, building up yellow deposits in the retina.
The results have the potential to improve earlier diagnoses for AMD patients, and may lead to more treatment options.
Cathy Yelf, chief executive of the Macular Society, said: "This is a very interesting study in a relatively new area of AMD research. AMD develops very slowly and by the time people have noticeable sight loss it is proving very difficult to treat. It is a priority in AMD research to find the earliest signs of the condition so that we can look for a therapy that will stop it developing into advanced, blinding disease.”