Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


New findings could aid early diagnosis of common eye disease

New findings could aid early diagnosis of common eye disease in elderly


Researchers at the University of Auckland have discovered that age-related macular degeneration – the most common form of vision loss in the elderly – extends to areas outside the macula, a discovery which could prove critical in helping prevent the onset of the disease.

Molecular cell biologist Dr Monica Acosta led the Health Research Council of New Zealand-funded study, which used both human donor tissues from the New Zealand Eye Bank and animal models to investigate the early stages of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Clinically, AMD is diagnosed when yellow protein deposits called drusen are seen in the macula – a small part in the centre of the eye’s retina, about the size of a pinhead, which is responsible for clear and detailed central vision. However, Dr Acosta and her team have found that molecular changes associated with AMD, including the presence of drusen and changes in cell communication, occur outside the macula. Inflammation also occurs in an area just above the retina called the choroid.

“Until now, people have focused on developing interventions to prevent the death of photosensitive cells in the macula. Our findings suggest that the changes in the macula that result in vision loss may actually be due to changes in the choroid, and that visual function should be monitored across the retina,” says Dr Acosta.

To further investigate this finding, Dr Acosta’s group used an animal model of AMD to test alternative treatment options. They found that administering a peptide called connexin 43, which acts on the channels (gap junctions) between cells, significantly reduced inflammation in the choroid and retina. Co-researchers Professors Colin Green and Helen Danesh-Meyer from the university’s Ophthalmology Department have been researching different aspects of this molecule for many years.

“We don’t know if this molecule is interacting with the outer part of the channels or the inner part, or what the mechanism of action is. However, it’s intervening at a critical step of the damaging process to restore retinal function and stop the spread of the disease.”
Dr Acosta says looking at the ways cells communicate with each other could be one of the keys to developing alternative therapies for AMD.

“The disease affects people over 60 for whom genetic and environmental factors, principally as a consequence of light damage, may cause changes to the macular area. We need to find the reasons for this and a cure as it’s devastating for the elderly and their families.”

For this study, the team used human donor tissue from three patients who had advanced AMD. Dr Acosta hopes that by using more human donor tissue, and improving the animal model, they will be able to look for inflammation in other areas not normally targeted, with the aim of stopping the progress of the disease.

“Now that we have identified a molecule with the ability to combat the spread of inflammation, oxidative stress, and cell death, as well as trigger repair mechanisms, we have good prospects for advancing that line of research.”

Dr Acosta says that while their research is in the early stages, it offers exciting possibilities for the treatment of retinal diseases.

“I’m convinced that we have the clues for finding the right therapies and interventions at the protein and cellular level. With the support of my colleagues in optometry and ophthalmology, it’s possible to apply or translate our findings to a clinical environment, and this is something we will look at pursuing in the near future.”


Information: Dr Monica Acosta
Department of Optometry and Vision Science
The University of Auckland
Phone: +64 9 923 6069
Email: m.acosta@auckland.ac.nz


-Ends-

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Bad Day For Rope: Donaghys Job Losses Another Blow To Dunedin

The loss of 30 jobs from Donaghys rope and twine factory is yet another blow to the people and economy of Dunedin, says Dunedin South Labour MP Clare Curran. More>>

ALSO:

Oil: 2014 New Zealand Petroleum Summit

Simon Bridges: Our abundance of energy and minerals resources provides us with unique opportunities to build the New Zealand economy.

Over the past three years the Government has made significant changes to how the sector is regulated. More>>

ALSO:

WWF Report: Solutions In Reach; World Biodiversity Suffers Major Decline

Global wildlife populations have declined by more than half in just 40 years as measured in WWF's Living Planet Report 2014. Wildlife's continued decline highlights the need for sustainable solutions to heal the planet... More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: NZ Dollar Catches Breath After "Goldilocks" Slump

The New Zealand dollar edged up following its dramatic slump yesterday after the Reserve Bank confirmed speculation it intervened in the currency market last month and PM John Key suggested a “Goldilocks” level far lower than at present. More>>

ALSO:

Biosecurity: Kiwifruit Claim To Hold Officials Accountable For Psa

Kiwifruit growers have joined forces to hold Biosecurity NZ accountable in the courts for its negligence in allowing 2010’s Psa outbreak that devastated New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry and exports. Foundation claimants representing well ... More>>

ALSO:

Poison: Anglers Advised Not To Eat Trout In 1080 Areas

With the fishing season opening in just a few days (1 October 2014), anglers are being warned by the Department of Conservation(DOC) not to eat trout from pristine backcountry waters and their downstream catchments, where the department is conducting 1080 poisoning operations. More>>.

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Computer Power Plus

Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand

Mosh Social Media
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news