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ASTON ACADEMY INVESTIGATES SIGHT THREATENING DISEASE

25th January 2006

Aston Academy of Life Sciences, the clinical research hospital of Aston University, has recently been commissioned to assess the efficacy and safety of a specialist drug, Posurdex (Allergan Ltd, UK), which is used in the treatment of patients who suffer from a sight threatening condition, called macular oedema.

It is estimated that the condition, which is caused by occlusion (blockage) of the central or branch retinal veins in the eye, affects over two and a half million people worldwide, with over 245,000 people in the UK being affected, most of whom are untreatable. This phase III clinical trial commissioned at the Academy and other sites in the UK, Europe and Worldwide offers the hope of significant improvement in vision for those who suffer with the condition.

The disease affects the macula, a tiny oval area at the centre of the retina which is responsible for “central vision” and is important for tasks that require detailed vision, such as reading and driving. The disease process involves the build up of fluid causing swelling of the macula which can result in severe visual disabilities and blindness particularly among people with diabetes.

The condition is also specifically associated with other visual conditions including diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion and uveitis (the inflammation of the part of the eye containing the iris, cillary body and choroids).

Once implanted, Posurdex releases dexamethasone to the targeted disease site at the back of the eye. Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, reduces the macula swelling.

In relation to this new trial the Academy hosted a mini convention on 25 January, which was attended by 18 of the UK’s leading consultant retinal specialists and a number of research scientists from Aston and other Universities. They discussed the use of Anti-VEGF (Vascular endothelial growth factor) for the treatment of age-related-macular degeneration (AMD) through injections into the back of the eye.

Managing Director of the Academy and a Reader in the School of Life & Health Sciences at Aston University, Dr Sarah Hosking said: “These new interventions for AMD mark the start of an exciting new era for the potential treatment of the many patients with this debilitating and often blinding condition. The Academy will act as a hub of clinical research activity at the University, involving some of the UK’s leading retinal specialists. This Phase III clinical trial is the first step, however studies are likely to extend into the development of other related treatments drawing on expertise from our School of Pharmacy and expert ophthalmologists. Patients will be referred to the Academy from all over the Midlands by partnering ophthalmologists”.

Aston Academy of Life Sciences also offers a range of ophthalmology services including cataract and refractive surgery, as well as MRI scanning to patients. Patients can be referred by doctors or optometrists or can simply refer themselves.

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