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A way to prevent macular degeneration?

Created date

January 5th, 2016
photo of senior eyes
photo of senior eyes

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects up to 30% of Americans over age 50 and is the leading cause of blindness in this age group. It has no cure but there are treatments available that can slow the progress of the disease for some people.

But what has eluded researchers thus far is how to prevent AMD. Now scientists from University of Arizona may have discovered an answer—a drug called L-DOPA. The researchers stumbled on this finding after analyzing the medical records of 87 million patients. They found that people who were taking L-DOPA before they developed AMD were diagnosed with the disease eight years later than patients who did not take L-DOPA. In addition, they noticed that there were significantly fewer patients in the L-DOPA group overall. 

Use for Parkinson’s

L-DOPA is used as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease and some other movement-related disorders. The compound occurs naturally in human pigmented tissue, such as the iris. L-DOPA is responsible in part for keeping the macula—the pigmented area of the retina responsible for visual acuity—healthy.

The researchers hope to investigate L-DOPA further to evaluate if it truly has a protective effect against AMD and possibly other eye diseases characterized by deterioration of the retina. Clinical trials will likely be the next step to validate the data.