Novel therapy holds promise to stem age-related macular degeneration

A group of researchers from Columbia University Medical Center has found that if the ‘clumping’ of vitamin A in the eye can be slowed down, it may help prevent loss of vision, generally caused by macular degeneration.

Dr. Washington and his lab have taken a novel step toward treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a top cause of untreatable blindness – and Stargardt’s disease by changing the structure of vitamin A.

Vitamin A often reacts with another molecule of vitamin A to form clumpy deposits, or what are known as ‘vitamin A dimers’. These dimmers are mainly responsible for the macular degeneration.

“Researchers have tried a different approach to preventing the formation of vitamin A dimers by modifying the processing of vitamin A by the eye, but these modifications seem to have inhibited vision and caused side effects,” Dr. Washington said.

In animal model studies, Dr. Washington’s lab has synthesized a modified vitamin A drug.

When given to mice with the same genetic defect as humans with early vision loss, the modified vitamin A resulted in fewer vitamin A dimers, that prompted improved vision. The researchers concluded that this could be used as a therapy to human-blindness.

This work is detailed in a series of articles published recently in the ‘Journal of Biological Chemistry’.

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