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Build up of toxic DNA may drive geographic atrophy

Researchers are exploring the potential of treating age-related macular degeneration with common HIV drugs


A new study published in Science Advances has highlighted the potential for common HIV drugs to be used in the treatment of geographic atrophy.

Researchers described how harmful DNA, called Alu cDNA, accumulates at the leading edge of geographic atrophy lesions. The DNA triggers inflammation that leads to the death of retinal cells.

Scientists are exploring the potential of HIV medication, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), that block inflammation and could protect against retinal cell death.

Previous research that examined data from more than 100 million patients over two decades across four different health insurance data bases found that people taking NRTIs were almost 40% less likely to develop dry age-related macular degeneration.

Dr Jayakrishna Ambati, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, highlighted that the findings provide support for conducting clinical trials testing NRTIs or safer derivatives, kamuvudines, in patients with macular degeneration.

"We are very hopeful that a clinical trial of kamuvudines will be launched soon in geographic atrophy so that we can potentially offer a treatment for this devastating condition,” Ambati said.