Here’s a roundup of new research presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology—Middle East-Africa Council of Ophthalmology Joint Meeting in Chicago from October 16 to 19.

A Treatment for Dry AMD?
A drug commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis may prevent patients with dry AMD from progressing to the wet form of the disease. In this Phase II clinical trial, a research group led by Jason S. Slakter, M.D., at the New York University School of Medicine evaluated the therapeutic effects of fenretinide on 246 dry AMD patients from 30 sites across the United States.

According to the researchers, fenretinide—a synthetic derivative of vitamin A—has strong anti-inflammatory properties, inhibits abnormal blood vessel growth and reduces vitamin A-derived toxins, such as A2E and lipofuscin (these toxins accumulate in the retinal pigment epithelium and interfere with its ability to nourish light-receptor cells in the retina).

At the study’s conclusion, the researchers reported that dry AMD patients who were medicated with fenretinide were twice as less likely to progress to wet AMD than patients in the control group. Additionally, patients who received fenretinide experienced reduced geographic atrophy lesion growth.

“Evidence from our study and others points to fenretinide’s potential to treat and prevent diseases of the retina,” said Dr. Slakter.

ReVision Therapeutics, the company that supports the continued clinical development of fenretinide, is planning a Phase III clinical trial to begin in 2011.

Vitamin D Intake and Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy may be caused, in part, by insufficient vitamin D intake, according to John F. Payne, M.D., of Emory University in Atlanta.

Dr. Payne and associates selected 221 participants and categorized them into one of five groups: individuals without diabetes or any eye disease (47); individuals without diabetes who had uveitis, macular degeneration or other ocular diseases (51); individuals with diabetes but no eye disease (41); individuals with diabetes and nonproliferative diabetic retinopathy (40); and individuals with diabetes and proliferative disease (42). Then, the researchers measured the subjects’ serum 25-OH-D levels for 15 months.

At the conclusion of the study, Dr. Payne’s team noted that 81% of subjects in the proliferative retinopathy group, as well as approximately 70% of the subjects in the other two diabetes groups, were vitamin D deficient. However, just 55% of the subjects in the non-diabetes groups exhibited vitamin D deficiencies. Additionally, the researchers determined that only 44% of subjects who took multivitamins were vitamin D deficient, compared to 83% of those who did not take multivitamin supplements.

“If you were taking a daily multivitamin, your mean serum 25-OH-D level was about 31ng/mL vs. about 22ng/mL if you weren’t taking a multivitamin,” said Dr. Payne. The primary question of whether vitamin D supplementation can reduce the risk of diabetic complications remains unanswered, he added.

Nonetheless, Dr. Payne and associates concluded that patients at risk for diabetic retinopathy should consider the use of vitamin D supplements to prevent potential vision loss.

Cataract Surgery Reduces Car Crashes
Cataract surgery reduces the number of automobile accidents and saves millions of dollars in damages, according to Jonathon Q. Ng, M.B.B.S., of the University of Western Australia in Perth.

In this study, Dr. Ng and associates reviewed the accident rates of 27,827 residents of Western Australia who underwent unilateral cataract surgery from 1997 to 2006. All patients were at least 60 years of age, and the majority of individuals who were involved in automobile accidents were males aged 70 to 79 years who lived in metropolitan areas.

“We found cataract surgery reduced the frequency of all crashes by 12.6% after accounting for other potential confounders, and the cost savings from this reduction amounted to $4.3 million,” said Dr. Ng. “Each operative saved about $150 in crash costs. By including all crashes, rather than just fatal and hospitalization crashes, all possible benefits of cataract surgery were taken into account.”