“Our sight is the most perfect and most delightful of all our senses.”

_Joseph Addison

  The Spectator vol. V. 411

Many maladies come with aging. One of which is damage to our favorite organ of sense. Macular degeneration is a major concern for millions of people. It remains the leading cause of permanent vision loss in individuals over sixty. 

This ailment is caused when a central part of the retina, called the macula, is eroded – leading to either irreversible vision loss or severe impairment. 

There are two forms of macular degeneration, known as dry and wet. The dry form is precipitated when yellow deposits called drusin grow in the macula, thinning out the light-sensitive cells. The wet form is caused by blood leaking into the macula through blood cells growing underneath. The leaking blood eventually causes scarring, leading to permanent central vision loss.

The prospect of developing macular degeneration is frightening. Fortunately, the scientific and medical community is fighting back, and thanks to the tireless efforts of companies like BioViva and Integrated Health Systems, a hope for reversing macular degeneration has come.  

Shrewd scientists have proposed that a telomerase activator may be a key in treating this age-related disease. Telomeres are a compound structure at the end of chromosomes that contribute to aging. Telomeres shorten every time a cell replicates, eventually becoming too short to effectively do their jobs, the end result is that it causes us to age as cells can no longer properly carry out their respective tasks.

It should be no surprise that telomere attrition (shortening) with corresponding cellular senescence (aging) is a root cause in the development and progression of macular degeneration.

A double-blind, placebo controlled study discovered by ingesting Cycloastragenol (a telomerase activator) that macular function showed significant improvement in the group who received the drug.

Other, more permanent and more promising developments, have taken place in the realm of gene therapy. One delivery system that has shown promise is Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV). AAV is a non-pathogenic virus (one that does not cause disease) that has a minimal tendency to induce any type of immune response.

Patients with the wet form of macular degeneration who received this therapy reported no systemic side-effects. Remarkably, some of the patients positively responded with a reduction in intraretinal and subretinal fluids.

Other promising avenues are being explored in addition to telomere lengthening, including gene therapy for increasing Klotho. Klotho is a protein powerful enough for even researchers to refer to it as an “anti-aging” protein. Klotho significantly decreases with time. Research has shown that mice without Klotho suffer severe impairments to the retina.

BioViva and Integrated Health Systems are constantly on the lookout for new gene therapies in the war against macular degeneration and other age-related diseases. 

Gene therapy is a revolutionary way to combat many destructive diseases. It is proving to be an essential weapon in the arsenal of effective medical treatments. IHS and our partners are committed to be on the cutting-edge of this and other innovative medical therapies. Together, we will build a world where vision will never fade.

Dow, Coad Thomas, and Calvin B. Harley. “Evaluation of an oral telomerase activator for early age-related macular degeneration-a pilot study.” Clinical ophthalmology (Auckland, NZ) 10 (2016): 243.

Ramlogan‐Steel CA, Murali A, Andrzejewski S, Dhungel B, Steel JC, Layton CJ. Gene therapy and the adeno-associated virus in the treatment of genetic and acquired ophthalmic diseases in humans: Trials, future directions and safety considerations. Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2019;47:521-536. 

Reish, Nicholas J., et al. “The age-regulating protein klotho is vital to sustain retinal function.” Investigative ophthalmology & visual science 54.10 (2013): 6675-6685.

John Ryan
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