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A new model will help analysing progression of the age-related macular degeneration

Posted February 15, 2017

Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most common reasons for declining sight of people when they reach the age of 50. In fact, it is twice as common as Alzheimer disease in older persons. Now scientists from Queen’s, University College London and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have developed a new model which will help creating new earlier treatment strategies.

This is how a person with age-related macular degeneration sees the world. With aging population more and more people are likely to suffer from this condition. Image credit: National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health via Wikimedia, Public Domain

Scientists have developed a cell culture model, which confirmed that retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells are functional in early age-related macular degeneration and that the health of the layer where they are growing, called Bruch’s membrane, is key to developing later stages of the disease. In fact, drusen deposits, which are responsible for the development of age-related macular degeneration, are caused by a poor condition of the Bruch’s membrane. This model is the first of its kind and is going to help to gain some insight into the progression of the disease. Eventually it could help treating it early, preventing irreversible effects on patient’s sight.

Age-related macular degeneration mostly affects older people, but that is the world we are living in right now – our population is aging. It means that more and more people will be affected by age-related illnesses like this. Scientists hope that researches like this can stop these conditions. Dr Imre Lengyel, one of the authors of this research, who conducted the mineralomics analysis on the study, said: “We expect that this reproducible and valid model system will be important in determining what molecules in drusen and what changes in RPE cells can cause advancement to late stages of AMD”.

Researchers say that drusen reduction is now a viable treatment goal. That is probably going to be the next step for this research. Scientists are going to try to develop a special treatment, which would help reducing drusen deposits, which should halt progression of age-related macular degeneration very early. That is not an easy task, but because scientists have set this goal and created this easily replicable model, other science institutions from around the world may try their hand at solving this puzzle as well.

The world is getting older and we have to prepare for that. Age-related illnesses are affecting the quality of life of thousands of people and they have to be treated in the most innovative ways possible.


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