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New Drug Holds Promise for Treating Eye Condition

Close-up of elderly woman's eyes.
An experimental drug that is being tested to fight cancer is showing some promise as a treatment for macular degeneration.

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While research continues in the battle to overcome macular degeneration, it’s clear that many senior loved ones can live on their own with the disease if they receive assistance from a family member or professional caregiving service.

Q. My 83-year-old mother has macular degeneration and still lives at home. How can we help her stay at home? We do try to assist her around the house as much as possible and the store does deliver groceries each week. Also, is there any hope for a treatment for this disease?

According to medical definition, macular degeneration is a disease that progressively destroys the macula, the central portion of the retina, damaging central vision. Experts say the disease can impair the ability to see straight ahead clearly, making it difficult to read, drive or perform other tasks of daily living.

Now an experimental drug that is being tested to fight cancer is showing some promise as a treatment for macular degeneration. A research report published in The FASEB Journal, describes how giving endostatin to mice significantly reduced or eliminated abnormal blood vessel growth within the eye, which is ultimately why the disease causes blindness.

In this study, researchers tested the effects of endostatin on mice lacking this naturally occurring substance. The mice without endostatin were about three times more likely to develop advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than normal mice.

Then the researchers administered endostatin to both sets of mice. In the mice lacking endostatin, the number of abnormal blood vessels that cause AMD was reduced to normal levels. In control mice with normal levels of endostatin, the number of abnormal blood vessels was practically undetectable.

As you can see, there is hope on the horizon for fighting this disease. In the meantime, it may be helpful for your mother to have assistance at home. Many seniors live safely with eye conditions. But because your mom probably can’t drive anymore, she’ll need a link to the outside world.

Even if she may have someone delivering groceries or vacuuming her carpets, isolation is one of the biggest problems for those who have vision problems. Make sure that your mom is still getting out. If you are too busy for that, consider hiring a professional companion. The local Home Instead® office employs CAREGiversSM to help seniors like your mom stay in their homes. Companionship is one of the company’s most requested services.

For more information about the study, see

Last revised: December 15, 2011

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