Eye experts in Southampton are soon to become the first researchers in the UK to trial a pioneering drug that could prevent sight loss caused by the currently untreatable condition, Stargardt’s disease.
Professor Andrew Lotery, a consultant ophthalmologist at University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, is leading the UK strand of the trial, which is also being run in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and Norway.
What is Stargardt’s disease?
Stargardt’s disease, also known as Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, is an inherited eye condition that affects an area of the retina called the macula. The macula is found at the centre of your retina and is where the incoming rays of light are focussed – it is responsible for:
- what you see straight in front of you
- the vision you need for detailed activities, such as reading
- your ability to appreciate colour.
People living with Stargardt’s disease have a reduction in their central, or detailed, vision – it doesn’t usually affect your peripheral (side) vision.
The disease is the most common form of inherited juvenile macular degeneration and affects around one in every 10,000 children who suffer a gradual decline in vision and leads to blindness in adulthood.
Hope for people living with Stargardt’s disease
There’s currently no treatment for the disease, only advice aimed to reduce the speed of degeneration which includes avoiding exposure to bright light and wearing sunglasses.
The new trial involves taking remofuscin, a drug that removes built up fat deposits (known as lipids) from the back of the eye, with hope that it may stop the progression of the condition. This goes beyond existing approaches that aim to stabilise the level of lipids in the eye and could result in significant patient benefits.
Professor Andrew Lotery, who is based in Southampton General Hospital’s eye unit and a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Southampton said: “This disease is one of the most common forms of inherited retinal disease and results in progressive sight loss through adolescence and into adulthood. With no approved treatment currently available for Stargardt’s, we are very excited about the opportunity to test remofuscin and offer these patients the hope that we may be able to stop the progression of the condition.”
The study received funding from the European Commission’s H2020 programme, while Prof Lotery’s work in Southampton is supported by charity Gift of Sight, which he established in 2004 to raise money for research into the treatment of complex eye disease.
Posted on Wednesday 21 February 2018