Thursday, 26 May 2016

ASPREE trial keeping age-related macular degeneration research in its sights

This week is Macular Degeneration Awareness Week, providing an important and timely reminder of Australia’s leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss. The ASPREE (ASPirin in Reducing Events in the Elderly) trial is conducting a vital ancillary study called ASPREE-AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) to determine whether daily low-dose aspirin prevents the onset or progression of age-related macular degeneration in people aged 70 years and older. 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative disease in older people that affects the central area of the retina called the macula, causing it to thin and in some cases bleed. The condition commonly affects both eyes, though not always to the same extent and can result in vision loss.

According to the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), a collaborator on ASPREE-AMD, one in seven people over 50 has the early signs of AMD. Two out of three people over 90 will develop AMD, and one in four in that age group experience significant loss of vision from the disease.

The causes of age-related macular degeneration are currently not fully understood, although evidence suggests the condition has a genetic link.

People with a family history of AMD have a four-fold increased risk of developing AMD. Other risk factors associated with AMD include age and smoking.

ASPREE-AMD will compare and analyse retinal images from approximately 5,700 ASPREE participants in Australia to determine the effect of aspirin on the disease.

In order to capture retinal images from ASPREE-AMD participants, retinal cameras have been installed in three specially fitted vehicles, enabling ASPREE staff to travel to participants living in regional and rural areas.

Biobank Research Assistant Jewhara Suleiman, is one of several team members trained to take a set of retinal photographs at baseline, repeated at three years and possibly five years after a participant commences ASPREE study medication (100 mg aspirin or a matched placebo).

Previous studies on AMD have been inconsistent or statistically insignificant, but it is hoped that a large scale double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial, such as ASPREE can properly determine the effect of low-aspirin on AMD.

Follow ASPREE on Twitter: @aspree_aus

Check out the video message below from Ita Buttrose, the Patron of Macular Disease Foundation Australia.

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