A new blood test is being developed at the Australian National University in Canberra to detect patients at risk of dry age-related macular degeneration and potentially save millions of people worldwide from going blind.

Dry AMD is a common eye disorder that is caused by damage to the macula. It can takes years for signs of dry AMD to be found in the eye and often by the time it is diagnosed the disease is irreversible.

Lead researcher Dr Riccardo Natoli, from The John Curtin School of Medical Research and ANU Medical School, is developing a blood test to detect the disease earlier based on a model he has developed.

“The detection mechanisms we currently have for dry AMD happen too ,” Dr Natoli said.

“Once dry AMD starts there is a threshold tipping point and once a patient gets over that point there is nothing that can be done to save their sight.

“By the diagnosis stage, you look at the back of the eye and you already see that photoreceptors, the light-sensing cells of the eye, are starting to die.”

Researchers used a light model, thought to be the first of its kind, to better understand how the deterioration of the retina’s photoreceptor cells in the macula.