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BrightFocus-Funded Researchers Report Major Breakthrough In Understanding Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Controlling a protein called IL-18 could prevent progression to later stages of the disease

April 11, 2012
Source: Nature Medicine

Findings: Drs. Peter Humphries and Matthew Campbell, at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland, discovered that increasing the amount of an inflammation protein in the eyes of mice engineered to have age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may prevent the progression from early “dry” to more advanced “wet” stages of the disease. The immune system is essential to protect people from harm by foreign invaders, like bacteria and viruses, but in some cases, inflammation can go out of control and cause disease. In dry AMD, waste products that build up in the retina can trigger an immune response by a collection of proteins called an “inflammasome,” leading to abnormal growth of blood vessels and wet AMD. These scientists discovered that one of the inflammasome proteins, called IL-18, actually can protect the retina. Therefore, they surmise, increasing the amount of IL-18 in the retina might prevent progression to more advanced stages of this vision-robbing disease.

Significance: Currently, there are no treatments for dry AMD. Too much inflammation in the eye can lead to wet AMD, but Drs. Humphries, Campbell, and colleagues have shown that too little inflammation may not be good either. IL-18 seems to be needed to prevent damaging blood vessels from growing into the eye. Therefore, future therapies that increase the amount of protective IL-18 in the retina could prevent the progression from dry to wet AMD.


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Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional, and is not intended to constitute medical advice. Although we take efforts to keep the medical information on our website updated, we cannot guarantee that the information on our website reflects the most up-to-date research. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

Some of the content in this section is adapted from other sources, which are clearly identified within each individual item of information.

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