In-Office Test for Macular Degeneration Genes

In-Office Test for Macular Degeneration Genes

Your genes are your inner fingerprint and current medical research keeps uncovering the hidden clues to the future of your health found within these fingerprints. From heart disease to cancer, gene therapy has uncovered predispositions and prevented rapid escalation of disease.

According to the journal Einstein (Sao Paulo) 2017 Jul-Sep, 

“Local successes have already solidified the viability of treatments using gene therapy in clinical practice, as an alternative form for patients with congenital diseases or monogenic disorders and cancer, especially when the pharmacological or surgical interventions do not show good results.”

When it comes to macular degeneration any offense is a better defense. Better than the many defensive strikes only utilized when AMD (age-related macular degenerate degeneration) has already advanced.

Ever since gene therapy came out of the research lab it has been used more and more in clinical settings. Now, there is an in-office test for macular degeneration genes giving patients the relief of knowing development potential and early preventative options. Knowing the future can be tough, but losing your sight faster than not knowing is something you may want to avoid.

Actionable Risk Assessment

It is quite amazing how science can deduct a long list of clues simply by looking at your blood or saliva proteins, enzymes, etc. For the new in-office macular degeneration gene test, all it takes is is a small sample of the patient’s saliva to harvest results. This is a rapid, non-invasive procedure that, according to the company Visible Genomics, 

“…deliver[s] a comprehensive and clinically actionable risk assessment. This assessment determines the AMD patient’s progression risk of developing advanced AMD and predicts the lifetime risk for those with a family member with AMD.”

It is estimated that upwards of 70% of people with AMD have the gene pool in their historic familial DNA. Up until now there hasn’t been an accessible, reliable, and most importantly, affordable gene risk testing option. With this new testing availability, actionable risk assessment can be determined to start early intervention which has been found to slow the disease and offer many more years of healthy vision. 

Benefits of AMD early detection include a variety of treatments that can help reduce disease progression. Some treatments that may be applied include:

  • Supplemental protocol – Vitamin C, Vitamin E, copper, zinc, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin are all part of the AREDS (age-related eye disease study) supplemental protocol that has been shown to reduce the risk of developing severe AMD by about 25%.
  • Mediterranean diet change – It has been shown that switching to a Mediterranean based diet may help increase retinal blood flow, reduce oxidation and slow abnormal blood vessel growth. This diet is rich in antioxidants as well as omega-3 derived from increased fruits, vegetables and fish consumption while avoiding processed foods, alcohol and excessive sugars.
  • Anti-VEGF – Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy is the administering of monthly eye injections of a drug that successfully reduces the growth of damaging blood vessels on the retina.
  • Photodynamic therapy – This is a therapy that uses lasers to destroy leaking blood vessels in the retina. It is one of the major causes of the more severe form known as wet macular degeneration.
  • Retinal translocation – Rotation of the macula away from abnormal blood vessel growth which reduces scar tissue development and also allows the doctor to terminate blood vessels unable to previously be treated by lasers.

According to Frank Adamo, Visible Genomics founder and CEO, “Our health care system is reactive instead of proactive and preventive. With use of the Visible Genomics testing system, we can now give doctors and their patients the right tools to help prevent vision loss,”

Getting Support

In-office testing for any condition can be speculative given the hordes of drug companies that are always looking to jump on to the profit bandwagon. However, as more solid testing emerges from this new procedure, medical professionals are weighing in. 

Barry Eiden, OD, FAAO, North Suburban Vision Consultants president and medical director, supports the in-office test for macular degeneration genes stating that, 

“The results provided, with earlier intervention, lead to a better prognosis and outcome, We’re now able to create a personalized patient management plan and take the proper steps by delaying disease onset or slowing disease progression.”

The test consists of a simple cheek swab.There is one for dry macular degeneration called ‘Macular Risk’ which has been used for years. The Visible Genomics test can be applied to both dry or wet and instead of just detecting an AMD gene it integrates genetic information with clinical, demographic and lifestyle characteristics to assess risk.

Gene Therapy Advancement

With the early detection of AMD genes, gene therapy can immediately be implemented. This is the intricate process of turning certain genes “on” and other genes “off” to be able to manipulate natural healing. A past study using gene therapy for wet AMD showed how six patients no longer needed anti-VEGF injections after each patient’s genes were treated with gene therapy.  

Szilárd Kiss, M.D., director of Clinical Research and chief of the Retina Service in the Department of Ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City comments on gene detection leading to game changing gene therapy,

“This is potentially paradigm-shifting. It’s the next revolutionary leap in treating AMD. When you think about what is science fiction and what is science reality; gene therapy for AMD is becoming a clinical reality.”  

The in-office test for macular degeneration genes is yet another example of putting into place a preventative protocol. It is better than waiting until illness presents which medical intervention attempts to fix. It shows the rapid advancement of digging deeper for clues built into the body that science can then nudge along or slow down. This information is continuing to come to light in a variety of disease presentations which may possibly bring a day that naturopathic medicine surpasses allopathic medicine.