The following blog is a repost from visionaware.org

New research led by the AMD Center of Excellence at Harvard Medical School, the University of Coimbra, Portugal, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has used an emerging field of study, called “metabolomics” (explained below), to test patients’ blood and identify blood profiles that are associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

According to study co-author Joan W. Miller, M.D., “With metabolomics, we can identify blood profiles associated with AMD and its severity through laboratory testing. Because the signs and symptoms of early-stage AMD are very subtle, with visual symptoms only becoming apparent at more advanced stages of the disease, identification of [indicators of AMD] in human blood plasma may allow us to better understand the early to intermediate stages of AMD so we may intervene sooner and ultimately provide better care.”

From the Journal Ophthalmology

This new macular degeneration blood testing research, titled Human Plasma Metabolomics Study Across All Stages of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Identifies Potential Lipid Biomarkers(explained below), has been published online ahead of print in the September 2017 edition of Ophthalmology, the official journal of the American Academy of OphthalmologyOphthalmology publishes original, peer-reviewed research in ophthalmology, including new diagnostic and surgical techniques, the latest drug findings, and results of clinical trials.

The authors are Inês Laíns, MD, MSc; Rachel S. Kelly, PhD; John B. Miller, MD; Rufino Silva, MD, PhD; Demetrios G. Vavvas, MD, PhD; Ivana K. Kim, MD; Joaquim N. Murta, MD, PhD; Jessica Lasky-Su, PhD; Joan W. Miller, MD; and Deeba Husain, MD, who represent the following institutions: Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts; the University of Coimbra, Portugal; the Association for Innovation and Biomedical Research on Light and Image, Coimbra, Portugal; and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.

First, An Explanation of Terms Used in the Research

Here is a brief explanation of some key terms used in this macular degeneration research:

  • Biomarker: A substance in the body that can be measured and whose presence indicates disease, infection, or environmental exposure.
  • Lipid: A substance that is oily to the touch and does not dissolve in water. In the body, lipids store energy and are one of the components of the cells in our bodies.
  • Metabolomics: An emerging field of study that identifies “metabolites,” the unique chemical “fingerprints” that specific cell processes leave behind in our bodies.
  • Metabolites: Tiny particles in our bodies that reflect our specific genes and environment, produced during metabolism.
  • Metabolism: The chemical processes that occur within our bodies in order to maintain life.
  • Plasma: The liquid part of blood, which makes up about half the volume of blood. It holds the blood cells in suspension.

About the Macular Degeneration Blood Testing Research

Edited and excerpted from Researchers identify potential biomarkers of age-related macular degeneration, via Medical Xpress:

Patients with any stage of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) carry signs of the disease in their blood that may be found through special laboratory tests, according to a new study. The study describes a new technique known as “metabolomics,” which can identify blood profiles associated with AMD and its level of severity. These potential lipid biomarkers in human blood plasma may lead to earlier diagnosis, better [predicting] information, and more precise treatment of patients with AMD, as well as potential new targets for AMD treatment.

“With metabolomics, we can identify blood profiles associated with AMD and its severity through laboratory testing,” said co-author Joan W. Miller, M.D. “Because the signs and symptoms of early stage AMD are very subtle, with visual symptoms only becoming apparent at more advanced stages of the disease, identification of biomarkers in human blood plasma may allow us to better understand the early to intermediate stages of AMD so we may intervene sooner, and ultimately provide better care.”

“The study used a technique known as metabolomics, or the study of the tiny particles called metabolites, in our body that reflect our genes and environment,” explained co-author Ines Lains, M.D. “The metabolome—the set of metabolites present in an individual—is thought to closely represent the true functional state of complex diseases.”

“This is why we used it to test 90 blood samples obtained from study participants with all stages of AMD (30 with early-stage disease, 30 with intermediate-stage, and 30 with late-stage) and 30 samples from patients without AMD.”

Their [study] revealed 87 metabolites, or small molecules in the blood, that were significantly different between subjects with AMD and those without. Furthermore, the [research] team noted varying characteristics between the blood profiles of each stage of disease. This information has the potential to improve earlier diagnoses for AMD patients, and ultimately, may lead to more treatment options, as well as personalized treatment, for earlier stages of the disease.

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