Experts in the US have made a major discovery regarding the condition age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which they say could lead to two new therapies being developed.
According to specialists at the University of Kentucky led by ophthalmologist Dr Jayakrishna Ambati, an accumulation of a toxic type of RNA known as Alu RNA causes retinal cells to die in patients with geographic atrophy, which occurs in the later stages of dry AMD.
The experts explained that in a healthy eye, a Dicer enzyme degrades the Alu RNA particles but this is absent or dramatically reduced in geographic atrophy sufferers.
"When the levels of Dicer decline, the control system is short-circuited and too much Alu RNA accumulates. This leads to death of the retina," Dr Ambati noted.
He added that potential therapies could include increasing Dicer levels in the retina by over-expressing the enzyme or blocking Alu RNA using an "anti-sense" drug which binds and degrades the substance.
Also recently, a report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, suggested that the warning signs of major eye disease can be spotted fairly early on and prevented if people take action.
by Emily Tait