04/3/2013

Cholesterol drugs may prevent blindness

NEWS

Macular degeneration is one of the most common forms of blindness, particularly among older adults.  Now, researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine have discovered a potentially groundbreaking treatment that could prevent the debilitating condition:  cholesterol-lowering drugs.  The scientists were able to draw connections between high cholesterol levels and macular degeneration, ultimately discovering that immune cells became destructive when they were clogged with fats. The doctors treated the condition with eye drops made from a drug originally created to lower cholesterol.

When an individual has the "wet" form of macular degeneration, immune cells cease to be protective and instead become detrimental to the eye.  Rather than "eating" fatty deposits and sending them back into the blood, older immune cells become bloated after eating the fats and are unable to expel them.  This causes inflammation, to which the body responds by creating more blood vessels. This rapid blood vessel creation can damage the eye, potentially resulting in blindness.

This form of age-related macular degeneration could take a person's sight within three months if left untreated.  Though the research is admittedly at an early stage, this could be a big step forward in preventing blindness.

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