Over 60s residents of an East Yorkshire town are being offered the chance to play an important role in the future development of personalised treatments for age-related eye disease.
The Bridlington Eye Assessment Project (BEAP), led by The University of Nottingham, is appealing for people to take part in research that aims to more accurately predict how many patients are likely to be affected by age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and those who are at a greater risk due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
In addition, patients who are already receiving treatment for wet AMD in particular hospitals are being investigated to see how well they are responding to treatment.
The results could be used in the development of new treatments, including those for previously untreatable early stages of AMD, and treatment plans to address individual patient needs.
AMD is the commonest cause of irreversible sight loss in the western world and an estimated five billion people in the US and Europe have advanced AMD.
The new research follows a ground-breaking study in the early to mid-2000s which screened almost 3,500 people over the age of 65 in Bridlington for a range of different eye conditions, many of which may otherwise have gone undiagnosed.
The original study found that 4.6 per cent of that population had advanced AMD – this increased to 7.3 per cent in those aged between 80 and 84 years and 15.9 per cent in those aged 85 years.
Dr Winfried Amoaku, Clinical Associate Professor and Reader in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences in the University’s School of Medicine, is leading the research in collaboration with clinicians at the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the NI Clinical Research Network, and the University of Utah.
He said: “As the population in the UK and elsewhere continues to age, AMD will become increasingly more common. It is now accepted that AMD occurs as a result of a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as smoking.
“It has also been suggested that the effectiveness of many commonly used treatments may depend on genetic differences – patients with certain genes may respond better to treatment than other patients without.
“It is important to determine the frequency of different stages of AMD in the UK population, as well as understand the different risks that lead to the condition and to investigate the effect of these different genetic profiles.”
Residents in Bridlington will be sent information by post and invited to take part in the study. To participate, they will need to complete a questionnaire and will be invited to attend a research clinic at Bridlington Hospital. Images will be taken of the back of both eyes (the retina) and the images will be anonymised and analysed by the research tea to determine whether they have AMD and the stage of the condition. A cheek swab sample will also be taken for genetic analysis.
The study has also started recruiting wet AMD patients who have been receiving anti-VEGF treatment such as ranibizumab, and aflibercept - injections into the eyes which limit the growth of new blood vessels and the swelling they cause - for at least two years. These patients from selected hospitals, including Bridlington, York Hospital and King’s Mill Centre in Nottinghamshire, have been invited to provide a cheek swab sample for genetic analysis to link their genetic profile to their response to treatment and outcomes.
This study is a significant collaboration involving York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust as the hosting partner, the Northern Ireland Clinical Research Network (CRN), The York and Humber CRN, KMC, and scientists from these and other organisations.
The study is being funded through grants from Bayer International Plc and Boerhinger Ingelheim International.
Patients who are interested in taking part in the study can find out more on the BEAP website at www.BEAP.nhs.uk
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