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Research to Prevent Blindness

Researchers ID Key Compounds Related to Blood Vessel Growth in Wet AMD

A compound of specific bioactive products from a major family of enzymes reduced the severity of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in a preclinical model, according to a new study led by RPB-supported researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear. The report, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that it may be possible to prevent the vision loss observed in wet AMD by increasing the expression of specific bioactive lipid metabolites in the retina.

Choroidal neovascular lesion with associated blood vessels (red) and immune cells (Green). Photo courtesy: Dr. Kip Connor.

Disease-causing angiogenesis is a feature of advanced AMD in which blood vessels in the retina (the structure in the back of the eye that senses and perceives light) begin to grow new, abnormal blood vessels on the surface of the retina. These new vessels are immature, and can leak, rupture, or cause retinal detachment. Such cases, termed neovascular or “wet” AMD, account for 10 to 15 percent of AMD cases, develop abruptly, and rapidly lead to substantial vision loss.

The research demonstrates that bioactive lipids have the ability to regulate inflammatory immune cells in the retina, key regulators of the angiogenic process in this disease. Given this, these molecules show promising therapeutic potential not only for AMD, but also for other major conditions that involve angiogenesis and inflammation, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer.

“Given the high prevalence and progressive nature of neovascular eye disease, the ability to stabilize bioactive lipids that mitigate or halt disease is of great and increasingly therapeutic significance,” said corresponding author and RPB grantee Kip Connor, PhD, a vision scientist at Mass. Eye and Ear and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “It is our hope that emerging technologies and future studies will expand on our work, and ultimately lead to safe, targeted, and cost-effective therapies that markedly improve visual outcomes and quality of life for patients suffering from these debilitating eye diseases.”

Read the full press release from Mass. Eye and Ear

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