According to new research from the Washington University School of Medicine, age-related macular degeneration could soon be treated with medications that lower cholesterol levels.
The study, published in the online journal Cell Metabolism, found that controlling the key cause of AMD could be possible with drops containing cholesterol regulating agents. The new research focuses on immune cells called macrophages, which are the cells responsible for the removal of cholesterol and fats from tissues.
Since AMD is often due to the build-up of cholesterol that occurs as we age, we require functioning macrophages to fend off such diseases. However, as we age, macrophages can begin to malfunction and may become ineffective at ridding such cholesterol accumulation. When the macrophages are less able to reduce fatty deposits and cholesterol buildup, the area beneath the retina becomes inflamed. This inflammation triggers the development of the abnormal blood vessels that ultimately lead to wet AMD. So, what can cause this dysfunction in macrophages?
Ophthalmologist and research leader Dr. Rajendra Apte found that the malfunctioning macrophages taken from old mice and patients with AMD had something in common; low levels of a protein known as ABCA1. Going a step further, Dr. Apte and his team discovered that the presence of this protein is vital because it is especially effective at transporting the dangerous cholesterol out of cells.
Encouragingly, Dr. Apte and his team found that when the macrophages of old mice were administered eye drops containing (cholesterol lowering) drugs known as LXR agonist and given injections of microRNAs-33, ABCA1 levels were enhanced in cells. In fact, it was then shown that once ABCA1 protein levels were restored, cells began removing cholesterol more efficiently and slowed the formation of new blood vessels under the retina. (Thus slowing the progression of AMD.)
Study results concluded that cholesterol busting eye drops could be an effective treatment for fighting macular degeneration in the future. Of course, research remains in its early stages. Further investigation is required in order to determine whether vision loss caused by AMD can be prevented with cholesterol lowering eye drops.
However, it is important to continue to prevent and slow macular degeneration early. Studies have proven that a combination of meso-zeaxanthin, zeaxanthin and lutein is an effective way to reduce AMD progression and risk.
Talk to a physician about treatment for AMD.
What are your thoughts on the new findings?