While oxygen is essential to our planet’s life force and the way we function and stay healthy, high concentrations referred to as oxidative stress may very well be the cause of more than 70 widely-spread diseases such as cancer, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and eye diseases including macular degeneration.
“What happens in age-related macular degeneration is that the retinal pigmented epithelial or RPE cells, which are essential to nourishing the retinal cells, are damaged by oxidative stress,” said Herbert Weissbach, Ph.D., director and distinguished research professor in the Center for Molecular Biology and Biotechnology within the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “Our studies show that sulindac can protect RPE cells in culture against oxidative damage, suggesting that it could be an inexpensive and relatively non-toxic therapeutic approach for treating age-related macular degeneration.”
Oxidative stress is mainly due to the imbalance between the free radicals produced within our bodies from the oxygen that we breathe in and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralization by “antioxidants systems.” This imbalance is the underlying basis of oxidative stress. Oxygen free radicals can also be produced by environmental agents including air pollution, radiation, cigarette smoking, excess stress and increased exposure to sunlight.
Stanford University School of Medicine scientists have created a new, smartermethod for predicting if and when patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) will contract the most damaging form of the disease.
The technique, which relies on computer analysis of retinal scans already commonly collected by ophthalmologists and optometrists, will enable doctors to accurately calculate whether any given patient is likely to progress to “wet” AMD — the later stage of the illness that causes blindness if not treated in time.
There is no feasible way to treat wet AMD preemptively. And until now, there was no way to tell with certainty whether dry AMD would become wet AMD. Patients just had to hope their next doctor’s visit would come at the right time to detect and head off any further deterioration before it was too late.
Thanks to the new computer algorithm, ophthalmologists can now predict whether a particular person’s AMD will progress within one, three or five years, enabling doctors to tell their patients much more accurately when their next visit should be.