AI identifies drugs that may reduce sight loss from macular degeneration

Dr Wen Hwa Lee, Chief Executive for Action Against AMD:

"It’s really promising that we have identified current drugs that may have a positive effect on macular degeneration. Our next step will be to confirm which of these drugs have the potential to slow progression of the disease and reduce sight loss for people with this condition.”


What is the aim of the research?
The initial results from an artificial intelligence project show a number of existing drugs have the potential to reduce sight loss from age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of sight loss.

Action Against AMD, a research collaboration formed by four UK sight loss charities (Fight for Sight, Blind Veterans UK, the Macular Society and Scottish War Blinded), partnered with artificial intelligence company BenevolentAI to carry out the research, with a view to finding a new treatment for age-related macular degeneration within the next ten years.

Why is it needed?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of sight loss and can result in complete loss of central vision, with an estimated prevalence of 196 million people worldwide. There are currently no approved treatments for the 95% of patients with early and ‘dry AMD’, although there are treatments for the 5% of patients with ‘wet AMD’ caused by new blood vessel growth - if caught early enough.

What method did researchers use?
BenevolentAI used its ‘Benevolent Platform’ to comprehensively review and understand the millions of scientific papers, clinical trials information, and additional datasets relating to age-related macular degeneration with a view to identifying potential gene targets and treatments.

What could the impact be for people with age-related macular degeneration?
The research identified seven existing drugs - either already in development or being used to treat other conditions - that have the potential to be repurposed to treat macular degeneration. In addition the analysis identified new gene targets for investigation.

By repurposing an existing drug, a new treatment could be identified more quickly to treat patients with this condition than if researchers were starting from early stages of drug development.

Action Against AMD will now be taking the insight from the project to identify which drugs and gene targets are a priority for further investigation.

Find out more about age related macular degeneration
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