Cytokine Expression in Age-related Macular Degeneration

Vinit B Mahajan, MD, PhD
University of Iowa (Iowa City, IA, United States)
Year Awarded:
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014
Macular Degeneration
Award Amount:
Grant Reference ID:
Award Type:
Award Region:
US Midwestern

Co-principal Investigators

Jessica B Skeie, PhD
University of Iowa

Cytokine Signaling in the Foveal Choroid in AMD


Cytokines are important proteins that cause inflammation and bleeding in age-related macular degeneration. We will use protein analysis methods to identify cytokines and their downstream signals that are highly expressed in the retina that is most susceptible to macular degeneration.


In neovascular stages of age‐related macular degeneration (wet AMD), leaky blood vessels grow into the retina and damage vision. These blood vessels are coaxed into the retina by a communication “cross‐talk” that may exist between hundreds of proteins and chemicals. Drs. Vinit Mahajan, Jessica Skeie and collaborators will use special methods to identify these proteins and chemicals from retina blood vessels that were surgically removed from the eyes of human donors who were either healthy or who had been diagnosed with AMD. Comparison of the profile between healthy and diseased eyes should present a number of cross‐talk candidates. The identities of these candidates may then inspire the design of combination drugs to treat AMD before the invasion of leaky blood vessels promotes rapid loss of vision.

Research Updates

Currently, inhibition of the VEGF “cytokine” signaling pathway is used to treat neovascular (wet) AMD and block the choroidal vessels that suddenly hemorrhage beneath the retina. The damage from the fluid that leaks from these vessels typically occurs at the center of the macula, called the fovea—the critical area for high resolution and high function vision. No particular anatomy of the choroid has explained the unique susceptibility of the subfoveal choroid in AMD. Drs. Vinit Mahajan’s and Jessica Skeie’s team are working to identify cytokine signaling pathways unique to the choroid surrounding the fovea. Using a method called proteomics to study several hundred proteins simultaneously, the team has identified unique sets of signaling proteins. These new proteins may be additional therapeutic targets for potential prevention of the choroidal vessel leakage and damage in wet AMD.

About the Researcher

Dr. Vinit Mahajan is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Iowa and director of the Omics laboratory. He specializes in the surgical and medical care of vitreoretinal diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, uveitis, and inherited retinal dystrophies. Mahajan collaborates with leading scientists and physicians in the areas of proteomics and genomics. He believes translating the advances in molecular biology is the key to curing many forms of blindness. He contends that doctors who are as comfortable in the laboratory as they are in the operating room and clinic can accelerate the discovery process. Mahajan has published peer-reviewed papers in prestigious scientific journals, made presentations at national meetings, won research awards, and earned a U.S. patent. Mahajan has also been recognized by his peers since 2009 for inclusion in the Best Doctors in America.