Best Life: New treatment for age-related dry macular degeneration

Updated: May. 31, 2021 at 6:57 AM CDT
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CINCINNATI, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— People with age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, lose the central field of their vision, making objects look blurry. There are both “wet” and “dry” forms of AMD, but for patients with the “dry” form, there has been no approved medical treatment. Now, researchers are testing a gene replacement therapy that may save, or even improve, eyesight.

Cheri McDaniel turned her love of baking into a thriving business, but as her vision began to blur, running Ms. Cheri’s became a challenge.

“When customers would walk in, I would not be able to distinguish their facial features,” Cheri recalled.

Doctors diagnosed Cheri with the dry form of age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Christopher Riemann is among a handful of retinal surgeons testing an investigational therapy for dry AMD called OpRegen — a one-time replacement of human retinal pigment epithelium, or RPE cells, done under local anesthesia.

“We’re taking a slurry of those cells and we’re injecting them into the space under the retina where they’re missing,” described Christopher Riemann, MD, a vitreoretinal surgeon at Cincinnati Eye Institute.

Just a few days after the injection, Cheri noticed a difference in her vision and called the office.

“I could see without using my magnifying glass! Cause I was just so excited,” Cheri shared.

“We’re always very alert if a phase one patient calls, and I’m about having a heart attack, ‘what do we do, what’s going on?’ ... And she’s crying tears of joy!” recalled Dr. Riemann.

Doctors aren’t sure how much vision Cheri will regain. But for starters, the improvements mean she can help behind the counter of her namesake shop without a struggle.

“If it can help me, and then next time it’ll help somebody else, and it keeps on going? Then there you go,” expressed Cheri.

Cheri sold Ms. Cheri’s Donuts a few years ago when she and her husband were both having health challenges. Her friend, De’Ann now owns the shop and has kept the original name, and Cheri still shares her recipes. OpRegen is being tested in a phase 1-2A clinical trial to determine safety. So far, researchers say the treatment has been well-tolerated.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

Copyright 2021 WMC. All rights reserved.