Non-invasive system could be used to treat blinding disease

A 20-minute non-invasive procedure that uses the same amount of radiation as a dental X-ray could offer patients with a blinding disease a new treatment option.

The non-invasive system, called the ’Iray’, treats wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (wet AMD) and is being used as part of a clinical trial at King’s College Hospital in London.

Age-related macular degeneration affects thousands of people and is the leading cause of blindness in the UK for people older than 65. Neovascular, or wet, AMD is an aggressive form of the disease affecting 250,000 people in this country and, if left untreated, can quickly lead to loss of central vision.

Currently, patients with this condition have a series of injections directly into the eye, as frequently as every four weeks, for the remainder of their life. This new alternative treatment, if proved to be a success, will mean that patients do not have to rely on such intensive treatment with eye injections and some may avoid the need for eye injections altogether.

The machine, developed by US-based company Oraya Therapeutics, delivers precise doses of low-energy radiation to the eye structures affected by wet AMD. Preliminary evidence suggests that this can close the blood vessels that cause loss of vision.

Treatment occurs in a clinic, eradicating the need for surgery. Patients sit at the machine with their chin placed on a chin rest. A contact lens is then placed on the surface of the eye to help maintain eye position and tracking. A robot tracks any eye movement and maintains stability, so that the radiation dose can be precisely delivered.

Consultant ophthalmic surgeon Mr Tim Jackson, who leads the trial at King’s, said: ’This is an exciting new technology that targets one of the most common causes of blindness in the UK. If the initial results are borne out in these important larger studies then the majority of patients will have something to look forward to — an easily administered, one-off treatment that maintains or improves vision and fewer injections into their eye.’