CUHK Pao So Kok Macular Disease Treatment and Research Centre Opens Study Sees Correlation between Protein Angiopoietin2 and Wet Age-related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible central vision loss in elderly. A recent study by The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has discovered a protein called Angiopoietin2 that correlates with the severity of Wet AMD. Scientists from the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences of CUHK have found that the level of Angiopoietin2 is significantly elevated inside the eyes of patients with Wet AMD as compared to normal people and that it correlates with vision loss and macular swelling. The research team believes the finding can lead to a breakthrough in Wet AMD treatment. CUHK Pao So Kok Macular Disease Treatment and Research Centre opens today with the aim of enhancing macular disease treatment and research, which is expected to benefit more than 4,000 patients every year.
Wet AMD patients have a higher level of Angiopoietin2
AMD affects the central and most important part of the retina, which consists of numerous light-sensitive cells that cover the back of the eye. It can be divided into either a wet or dry type. Whereas 90% of patients have the dry form, the wet form has a more accelerated onset and, if left untreated, causes irreversible and severe central vision loss. Wet AMD occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina. Angiopoietin2 is a protein known to be involved in the growth of blood vessels elsewhere in the body, but this is the first time it has been associated with Wet AMD. Researchers discovered that patients with high level of Angiopoietin2 correlates with more severe swelling of the macula and worse vision.
Dr. Mårten Erik BRELÉN, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Director of CUHK Pao So Kok Macular Disease Treatment and Research Centre said, ‘We believe the study can lead us to further our work in clinical genetics, to help us identify specific gene variants within the angiopoietin gene that increase the risk of developing Wet AMD.’
Study helps generate new therapeutic target
It is estimated that over 190 million people worldwide are suffering from AMD and 1 in 10 of these develop irreversible sight loss. Due to an aging population, it is predicted that the disease will affect over 280 million people worldwide by 2040.
Dr. Danny Siu Chun NG, Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, added, ‘AMD is one of the most prevalent causes of permanent central vision loss in developed countries. With the discovery of the correlation between Angiopoietin2 and Wet AMD, we may potentially have a new therapeutic target for the treatment of this disease.’
The research team at CUHK is now investigating whether the levels of Angiopoietin2 can predict long-term treatment outcomes. A clinical trial using a combination of anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (standard therapy) and anti-Angiopoietin2 treatment is being prepared. These two treatment modalities may complement each other and thereby improve patients’ treatment outcomes.
CUHK opens the new Pao So Kok Macular Disease Treatment and Research Centre
In 2010, the Hospital Authority anticipated over 3,000 new cases of Wet AMD every year. It is estimated that 500,000 people in Hong Kong are suffering from AMD with 10% of these having the wet type. The number of people affected by AMD is rapidly increasing due to an aging population. Today, around 15% of Wet AMD patients do not respond well to the standard treatment and continue to lose vision. The CUHK research team has therefore, been focusing its research efforts on identifying new diagnostic and therapeutic targets to improve vision outcomes for this group of patients. Mr. Chang Bei Ming and Mrs. Chang Pao So Kok have made a generous donation of HK$10 million to the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, and today the CUHK Pao So Kok Macular Disease Treatment and Research Centre is officially open. The Centre combines world-renowned expertise in clinical ophthalmology, retinal imaging, analytical chemistry and genetics, together with state-of-the-art diagnostic, treatment, and research equipment. It is estimated to serve more than 4,000 patients every year.
Prof. Clement Chee Yung THAM, Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, said, ‘We are very grateful to Mr. and Mrs. Chang’s generosity. With the establishment of this important facility, further work on angiopoietin, other risk factors and treatment possibilities for macular diseases will be greatly enhanced.’
Prof. Francis Ka Leung CHAN, Dean of Faculty of Medicine, mentioned, ‘Population aging is a global trend and in Hong Kong, it is estimated that one-third of the population will reach the age of 65 or above in 2040. Age-related macular degeneration definitely needs our attention and I believe the establishment of CUHK Pao So Kok Macular Disease Treatment and Research Centre is definitely a good news to ophthalmology and to our older population.’