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

 

Media: Julian Wilcox Leaves Māori TV

Māori Television has confirmed the resignation of Head of News and Production Julian Wilcox. Mr Maxwell acknowledged Mr Wilcox’s significant contribution to Māori Television since joining the organisation in 2004. More>>

ALSO:

Genetics: New Heat Tolerant Cow Developed

Hamilton, New Zealand-based Dairy Solutionz Ltd has led an expert genetics team to develop a new dairy cow breed conditioned to thrive in lower elevation tropical climates and achieve high milk production under heat stress. More>>

Fractals: Thousands More Business Cards Needed To Build Giant Sponge

New Zealand is taking part in a global event this weekend to build a Menger Sponge using 15 million business cards but local organisers say they are thousands of business cards short. More>>

Scoop Business: NZ Net Migration Rises To Annual Record In September

New Zealand’s annual net migration rose to a record in September, beating government forecasts, as the inflow was spurred by student arrivals from India and Kiwis returning home from Australia. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Fletcher To Close Its Christchurch Insulation Plant, Cut 29 Jobs

Fletcher Building, New Zealand’s largest listed company, will close its Christchurch insulation factory, as it consolidates its Tasman Insulations operations in a “highly competitive market”. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Novartis Adds Nine New Treatments Under Pharmac Deal

Novartis New Zealand, the local unit of the global pharmaceuticals firm, has added nine new treatments in a far-ranging agreement with government drug buying agency, Pharmac. More>>

ALSO:

Crown Accounts: English Wary On Tax Take, Could Threaten Surplus

Finance Minister Bill English is warning the tax take may come in below forecast in the current financial year, as figures released today confirm it was short by nearly $1 billion in the year to June 30 and English warned of the potential impact of slumping receipts from agricultural exports. More>>

ALSO:

Auckland Outage: Power Mostly Restored Overnight

Vector wishes to advise that all but 324 customers have been restored overnight. These customers are spread throughout the network in small pockets. The main St Johns feeder was restored around midnight allowing most of the customers in all affected areas to have power this morning. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand

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