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Laser technique may halt blindness

Millions of older people could be prevented from going blind thanks to a new technique developed by the surgeon who pioneered laser eye surgery to cure short-sightedness.

The onset of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be delayed by the short pulse laser technique trialled on more than 100 diabetics by Professor John Marshall, a senior ophthalmologist at King's College, London.

In the UK, 200,000 people are registered as blind or partially sighted because of AMD, which is the leading cause of blindness in over-60s in the western world.

Professor Marshall says that by stimulating enzymes to remove waste material from a thin membrane behind the retina, called Bruch's membrane, the technique delays the effect of ageing without damaging any other cells.

The treatment is now to be trialled on patients already suffering from AMD in one eye with the aim of saving the sight in their better eye for as long as possible.

Professor Marshall is hoping that the treatment will be available within two to five years and says that one day people in their 40s who have a family history of AMD prevent the onset of the condition by electing to have the treatment.

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King's College London