The revelation anated from a study conducted by AMD researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, who described their new technique of early detection as ‘metabolomics’. The scientists claim they can identify lipid biomarkers in human blood plasma that may lead to earlier diagnosis, better prognostic information and more precise treatment of patients with AMD, as well as potential new targets for AMD treatment.“With metabolomics, we can identify blood profiles associated with AMD and its severity through laboratory testing,” co-author and chief of ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Dr Joan Miller said.“Because the signs and symptoms of early stage AMD are very subtle, with visual symptoms only becoming apparent at more advanced stages of the disease, identification of biomarkers in human blood plasma may allow us to better understand the early to intermediate stages of AMD so we may intervene sooner, and ultimately provide better care.”The researchers described metabolomics as the study of the tiny particles (metabolites) in our body that reflect a person’s genes and environment. The metabolome – the set of metabolites present in an individual – is thought to closely represent the true functional state of complex diseases.During the study, 90 blood samples were taken from patients with various stages of AMD and then tested using the new technique. The approach revealed 87 metabolites, or small molecules in the blood, that were significantly different between subjects with AMD and those without.Of those, most belonged to the lipid pathway, with six of the seven most significant metabolites identified in the study as lipids. Furthermore, the team noted varying characteristics between the blood profiles of each stage of disease.Previous research has suggested that lipids may be involved in the development of AMD, although the exact role of lipids in the disease process rains unclear. The results from this study support this suggestion, as well as indicate that metabolomics profiling may provide novel insights into relationship between lipids and AMD.“We believe this work will help launch the era of personalised medicine in treatment of AMD,” co-author Associate Professor Deeba Husain said.“Our work gives us a novel biomarker for early diagnosis, and it gives us clues to differentiate the progressors from non-progressors. This research also gives us insight into important role of lipids in AMD, which will provide novel targets for treatment in the early stage of disease, thus preserving vision in AMD.”A full report on the study was published in Ophthalmology.