New Discovery Could Prevent Common Type of Vision Loss
Worldwide, macular degeneration – the leading cause of vision loss in older adults – affects nearly 200 million people. Now, researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville, Virginia have discovered a crucial trigger for the inflammation that causes macular degeneration. This discovery could allow doctors to stop the inflammatory process early on, preventing blindness.
According to researchers, an enzyme called cGAS – which plays a role in the immune system’s response to infection by detecting foreign DNA – is responsible for the inflammation that destroys cells in the retina and leads to macular degeneration. This enzyme also may play an important role in conditions like diabetes, lupus, and obesity, and researchers are currently developing drugs to inhibit its function – drugs that could one day be used to prevent vision loss associated with macular degeneration.
Next, researchers hope to develop a way to detect cGAS levels in patients' eyes to determine when to administer treatment. Results of this study were published in Nature Medicine.