Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes blindness in the world, though very few treatments for the condition exist.
However, experts in the US now claim that they may have unearthed a potential therapy for the condition, based on a study into oxidative stress.
Specialists from researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, have published a report in the journal Nature which identifies a key protein that binds to a molecule generated by oxidative stress.
Conditions such as AMD are strongly linked to increased oxidative stress, a process which involves proteins, lipids and DNA damaged by oxygen free radicals and related cellular waste accumulating and prompting an inflammatory response from the body's innate immune system.
However, the scientists, led by senior author Christoph J Binder, assistant adjunct professor of medicine at UC San Diego, suggest that the new protein could block any subsequent inflammatory immune response.
They explained that when lipids in cell membranes degrade through oxidative stress and produce a number of reactive products, including a compound called malondialdehyde (MDA).
This, in turn, modifies other molecules to create novel oxidation-specific epitopes, which are the part of antigens that draw the attention and inflammatory response of the innate immune system.
However, that MDA attracted an immune system protein called complement factor H (CFH), which bound to it, effectively blocking the uptake of MDA-modified proteins by macrophages, with the protein neutralising the inflammatory effects of MDA in mice retinas, limiting the inflammatory response associated with AMD.
Professor Binder said that the study opens up new possibilities for the treatment of AMD by studying oxidative stress and, with subsequently-formulated therapies possibly halting the progression of the blinding disease.
"The distinctive, protective role of CFH represents a potential new therapeutic approach for treating AMD, heart disease and other chronic conditions. This activity of CFH can be used for the development of neutralizing agents to mimic this function," he added.
by Adrian Galbreth