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Scientists develop new treatment for age-related blindness

by nickj on February 7, 2011

A team of international scientists has developed new drugs that could potentially slow the spread of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) after isolating one of its key causes. The researchers have applied for a patent and hope to begin testing the drugs on patients within the next year.

The study related to the findings was published in the February 6 edition of the journal Nature and explained how the lack of an enzyme named DICER1 leads to the development of the condition.

According to the BBC, the researchers compared the eyes donated to them by deceased AMD patients and those with normal eyesight. Scientists noticed that the enzyme was less present in those with the disease and eventually discovered that DICER1 is necessary to destroy Alu RNA, the genetic material that is toxic to the retina when it accumulates in large amounts.

University of Kentucky professor of ophthalmology Jayakrishna Ambati created two drugs in response to the findings – one that stimulates the production of DICER1, and another that destroys Alu RNA.

"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," he told the news source.

Macular degeneration affects the macula, the central part of the retina, and results in the deterioration of the central field of vision and many of the details that allow one to read, drive and recognize people, the news source reports.

Currently, there is no known cure for age-related macular degeneration. The disease affects one of every 50 people over the age of 50 and one in five of those over the age of 85.

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