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    Laser advances take retina specialty to new levels of treatment, care

    Artificial retina, genetic engineering, stem cell therapies also generate interest


    “In this technology, vectors are implanted to introduce genetic material into the eye to address specific diseases,” Dr. Ip said. “These can be placed in the intravitreal or subretinal space and are good potential avenues to regenerate tissue that has been destroyed by a variety of diseases.”

    Dr. Dugel also pointed to new forms of genetic engineering that were studied during 2014. Genzyme and Avalanche Biotechnologies have developed two different approaches to genetic engineering for wet AMD using implanted viral vectors that can deliver an anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) agent to correct disease processes.

    Using the Genzyme strategy, the vector is injected into the mid-vitreous to access the back of the eye under the fovea. The approach used with the Avalanche Biotechnologies device is more direct, according to Dr. Dugel, in that the genetically engineered product is placed under the fovea during surgery.

    Encapsulated Cell Technology is another form of genetic engineering being developed by Neurotech. This approach facilitates delivery of drugs into the vitreous. Two candidates, NT-503 and NT-501, are notable. The former is designed to treat wet AMD by delivering a drug into the eye with the goal of providing constant tissue exposure for more than 18 months. In both, genetically engineered drugs are encapsulated in a barrier and placed in the eye. This approach is being evaluated in clinical trials to treat dry AMD, retinitis pigmentosa, and macular telangiectasia.

    Artificial retina

    The success of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System (Second Sight Medical Products) is another achievement of the past year. The device received FDA approval in 2013, and the first successful implantations were performed at the Kellogg Eye Center of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, early in 2014. Both patients had retinitis pigmentosa.

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