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Macular degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over 50.

Gene therapy may reduce macular degeneration

Picture credit: Science Photo Library

A main feature of the disease is the presence of lipid-rich deposits underneath the retinal pigmented epithelium. Although these deposits do not affect vision they act as a focus for the atrophy of retinal cells and the proliferation of new blood vessels in the underlying choroid.

Reducing the lipid burden without damaging the retina or encouraging new vessels would be desirable. Previous interventions, such as laser to reduce the lipid deposits, have been unsuccessful but new breakthroughs could be near.

Genome studies have shown multiple genes involved in cholesterol homeostasis. It may be possible to use the recently discovered microRNA molecules to decrease cholesterol synthesis and enhance reverse cholesterol transport from the retina to the liver.

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