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A Spanish researcher discovers the causes of age-related blindness: a key step to prevent it

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A study led by the Spanish Miguel Flores-Bellver, principal investigator at CellSight, a center at the University of Colorado (USA), has managed to identify for the first time the mechanisms that cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.

The study, published in Journal of Extracellular Vesicles, has managed to detect a link between extracellular vesicles, drusen – yellowish deposits formed on the retina – and the appearance of macular degeneration. A discovery that could lead to early diagnosis and specific treatment options for dry AMD, the most common variant of this pathology.

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According to the university, Flores-Bellver’s research shows that cells of the retinal pigment epithelium, a simple layer of cells located under the photoreceptor cells in the eye, release exosomes containing normal proteins and proteins associated with drusen, one of the main initial manifestations of AMD, under normal physiological conditions.

However, under stressful conditions, Flores-Bellver found that RPE cells release drusen-associated proteins about 20 times more, which provides a potential biomarker of AMD.

Valeria Canto-Soler, associate professor who has also participated in the study, has pointed out that the research shows that when RPE cells are exposed to an environment similar to the one that leads to AMD, respond with increased release of drusen-associated proteins through exosomes.

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“Opens the possibility of an early diagnosis of a person who develops AMD by determining that their cells secrete many more exosomes with these proteins associated with drusen than under normal conditions “, explained the professor it’s a statement.

For years, researchers have been searching for the origin of drusen-associated proteins in relation to the symptoms and development of AMD. However, this biomarker could be found in blood, tear, urine, or saliva samples.

This discovery could help treat millions of people before they develop geographic atrophy, a later stage of dry AMD, because it is currently not possible to treat patients with early disease.

“Know that extracellular vesicles are releasing drusen-associated proteins presents an opportunity for new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches“, he has Flores-Bellver explained in a note, noting that if researchers can define assays to measure these proteins released in these exosomes, they could potentially diagnose the disease early, perhaps even at the time of its onset. “So we may be able to better treat AMD patients,” he added.

CellSight researchers they plan to expand this study working with the DMAE registry of the University of Colorado Department of Ophthalmology.

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