Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness in older adults. Studies have identified approximately three dozen genes involved in the disease, but it is still unknown where they cause damage to the eye.
Researchers from Yale University, the Broad Institute of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University now found that glial and vasculature cells, which provide blood to the retina, as well as cone cells contribute to degeneration of the macula.
Currently, there are few effective long-term treatments for AMD. Wet AMD is treated with eye injections and dry AMD is treated with supplements. These treatments are effective for a while, but AMD still often progresses and causes vision loss.
The researchers used new single-cell sequencing to generate the first comprehensive human retinal atlas; data analysis technology was used to localize their effects to specific cell types associated with the disease. Results showed that risk genes were associated with cones and glial cells were associated with vasculature cells—and these will become the targets for therapy development.
They aim to study these cell types more closely to develop better therapeutic treatments, with the goal of improving and restoring vision in those with AMD.
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