Young Portuguese eye doctor receives second Harvard award for research into AMD

AMD (age-related macular degeneration) spells the gradual descent into blindness – and Coimbra ophthalmologist Inês Laíns is passionate about pulling sufferers back before it’s too late.

Inês has already won a prestigious award for her research from Harvard Medical School in the United States, and now she has done it again, with a new paper on trying to develop bio-markers to alert doctors about people at risk of developing AMD.

Just as a blood test these days can tell if patients are at risk of a stroke or heart attack, Inês is hoping to develop a test that would highlight susceptibility of developing AMD.

As she explains, the disease is “multifactorial” and involves genetic make-up as much as it can be influenced by diet, environment, habits, etc.

But what Inês has discovered so far is that people with AMD have clear differences in their blood to people of the same age but without it.

Thus, for now, the 32-year-old has ‘tested’ 500 patients – 200 in the US and 300 in Portugal – and the next step will be to re-test them all again in five years time.

All the people taking part in the test already have AMD, which usually starts between the ages of 50-60.

AMD is a disease that has “enormous prevalence”, the young doctor told Público, and “terrible consequences for quality of life, because even if patients don’t lose their sight, they have distortion and alterations in their central vision” equivalent to having a “black area in the middle of their sight field”.

This second-time win of the Evangelos S. Gragoudas Award means Inês Laíns wins yet more research money to continue her work, though she admitted in her telephone interview, that she “misses seeing patients”