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    In the lab with A/Prof Wilson Heriot

    Is there a link between anti-malarial medication and macular degeneration?

    The problem to be solved

    In 2016, Associate Professor Wilson Heriot won a $30,000 one year grant, to investigate whether there were links between certain drugs and macular disease.

    The anti-malarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine are used to treat systemic autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.

    However, long-term use of these agents is known to lead to macular degeneration.

    Associate Professor Wilson Heriot studied the effect of these medications on the retinas of mice, showing that even after as little as four weeks, hydroxychloroquine treatment made the retina more sensitive to light, however this effect was not observed for chloroquine.

    While some mild changes in the retina were observed, overall, no significant damage was noted. However even at low doses and very short light exposure, retinal metabolism was significantly altered.

    This model will allow researchers to explore longer exposure to mimic patient exposure.

    If phototoxic damage is confirmed, macular damage may be eliminated with glasses adapted to counteract the retinal sensitivity by filtering specific colours.

    This article first appeared in our publication 10 Years of Impact: Reflecting on the impact of investing into macular disease research

    Posted: 31 May 2021

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