New test detects early signs of AMD

Researchers have designed a new test that can spot the early stages of sight loss in age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The research was funded by Moorfields Eye Charity and Fight for Sight.

Professor Roger Anderson led the research team based at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.

AMD affects the macula which is a small, but extremely important area located at the centre of the retina, the light-sensing tissue that lines the back of the eye.  It is responsible for seeing fine details clearly and we use it for reading and recognising faces. In the UK, more than half a million over-50s have a form of AMD, and the figure is set to rise as the population ages.

Most sight loss from AMD happens in the later stages. Until now, there has been no quick and reliable sight test that can detect the earliest changes in the retina in AMD.

To address the problem, the team invented a new test chart, called the Moorfields Acuity Chart (MAC). The test features letters created from fine black and white strips.However, unlike the standard chart, these two-coloured, high-spatial frequency letters appear to vanish when they are too small to be recognised.

Sir Peng Tee Khaw, Director of the NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre, said:

This marks a significant advancement in our ability to diagnose vision loss arising from the leading cause of sight loss in industrialised countries. This is exciting for us all as improved testing methods lead to better diagnosis and treatment development.

The team is currently preparing to assess the MAC chart’s performance in a larger clinical trial.