Discovery could lead to treatments for blindness disease

British scientists have figured out the key mechanism behind the leading cause of blindness — opening up hope for new treatment options for age-related macular degeneration.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

British scientists have figured out a key mechanism behind the leading cause of blindness.

Age-related macular degeneration damages a person's sharp, central vision — making everyday tasks like driving and reading difficult.

AMD affects the macula, which is the part of the eye responsible for seeing things in fine detail. The macula is a light sensitive tissue that is situated on the center of the retina. The breakdown of light sensitive cells can happen slowly over time — and therefore, the loss of vision is gradual and becomes more noticeable in old age.

(I had a sneak peak at my DNA and the only result that stuck out like a sore thumb was an increased risk for AMD. There's a strong genetic association to AMD).

In 2005, scientists found genes associated with complement factor H (CFH), a protein that causes an immune response. If a person has one copy of the gene, he is three times more likely to develop AMD. Having two copies of the gene ups that chance to seven times as likely.

This time around, University of Manchester researchers wanted to find out the pathway between CFH and the macula. After comparing normal and diseased macula from donated eyes, the researchers discovered that abnormal CFH couldn't hook up to the macula. This is a problem because if the macula doesn't have enough CFH protecting it, the body starts to attack what it believes to be foreign tissue.

The scientists think that knowing the CFH mechanism will help them develop new treatments for AMD. Perhaps injecting CFH into the blood could prevent the onset of AMD, the researchers suggest.

Other treatments are available. Like I said before, the FDA gave the green light to a telescope eye implant, which can be used to restore the central vision in those suffering from end-stage macular degeneration. The implant basically works like a telescope.

via New Scientist

Photo: NIH

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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