New research published in Nature Medicine identifies a molecule that is responsible for triggering an inflammatory response in age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that the enzyme cGAS is activated in dry AMD.
cGAS plays an important role in the body’s immune response by detecting foreign DNA.
Study author, Jayakrishna Ambati, highlighted that the role of the enzyme in AMD is unexpected.
“It’s really surprising that in macular degeneration, which, as far as we know, has nothing to do with viruses or bacteria, that cGAS is activated, and that this alarm system is turned on,” Ambati said.
“This is what leads to the killing of the cells in the retina, and, ultimately, vision loss,” he added.
The finding opens new avenues for the treatment of AMD, although researchers expect it could take several years to develop a drug to inhibit cGAS.
That drug would then need to undergo extensive testing to determine its safety and effectiveness for treating AMD.