Major Breakthrough In Understanding Common Eye Disease

eye disease
Major Breakthrough In Understanding Common Eye Disease

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have announced a major breakthrough with important implications; for sufferers of a common eye disease dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – which can cause total blindness in sufferers; and for which there are currently no approved therapies. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of central retinal vision loss worldwide; and estimated that 10% of people over the age of 55 already show early signs of eye disease.

The major early pathological hallmark common to both dry and wet AMD is the accumulation of drusen; between the RPE and the choroid, with reticular pseudodrusen; depositing in the subretinal space in some patients with late AMD and geographic atrophy.  However, the scientists discovered that a key component of the cells lining the retinal blood vessels; namely claudin-5, may be central to the development of the common blinding eye disease, AMD. In pre-clinical models; discovered that “leaky blood vessels” pre-disposed the eye to developing features of AMD.

Initiating factors of eye disease

“Initially surprised that these blood vessels of the inner retina contributed to an AMD-like pathology; however it now appears that their dysfunction may represent one of the earliest initiating factors of eye disease,” said Dr. Natalie Hudson, Post-doctoral researcher at Trinity, and first author of the study.

However, AMD is the most common form of central retinal blindness in the aging population. But the disease involves a loss of central visual acuity, such that everyday tasks such as reading; watching TV, driving, or using computers become difficult and in some cases impossible. However, there are two forms of AMD: ‘dry’ and ‘wet’. While therapies are available for the management of wet AMD, there are no treatments, therapies or cures yet approved for dry AMD, which accounts for the majority of cases in Ireland and worldwide.

Patients with dry AMD

Patients living with dry AMD are presently recommended to pursue lifestyle changes; such as stopping smoking, and improving diet and exercise regimes. Novel forms of therapy, desperately needed in an ever-aging society; with life expectancy currently far exceeding the rate of development of drugs for aging associated conditions. Dr. Matthew Campbell, Assistant Professor in Genetics at Trinity, said: “Identifying the early molecular events that cause dry AMD will allow us to develop a targeted approach to therapy.

But in this case, they believe that regulating the integrity of the retina’s blood vessels may; over time, help to prevent the development of dry AMD.” Dr. Mark Cahill, consultant Ophthalmologist at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH), added. “However, the findings have highlighted the power of basic and clinical research working towards identifying novel targets for AMD therapy; which will ultimately benefit patients in the future.”