A new laser treatment may help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness among elderly people in the western world.
Improvements to sight were reported in about 50 people with diabetic eye disease who took part in early proof of concept trials, BBC News reported. Diabetic eye disease was used as a model in the tests because eye problems develop faster than in AMD, which affects central vision.
The painless laser treatment, developed by Professor John Marshall of King's College London, restores the back of the eye to a youthful condition. It does this by clearing away a build-up of natural waste materials produced by light-sensitive cells. As people age, the eyes' system for clearing away the waste materials can fail.
"If it is shown to work it is an extremely exciting development and potentially a real breakthrough," a spokeswoman for the Macular Disease Society in the U.K. told BBC News. "It will not sadly be useful in those who have already lost their sight to AMD, but it may have great hope for the future."