Exploring the link between obesity and AMD

University of Montreal scientists found that a history of obesity leads to persistent changes within the DNA of immune cells

Pixabay/Steve Buissinne

Canadian researchers have gained new insight into the connection between obesity and a heightened risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Their research, which was published in Science, explored how stressors, such as obesity, can reprogramme immune system cells.

University of Montreal scientists found that transient obesity or a history of obesity leads to changes within the DNA of immune system cells that mean they are more susceptible to producing inflammatory molecules.

These changes in innate immunity remain even following weight loss and normalisation of metabolism.

Study co-author, Masayuki Hata, explained: “Our findings provide important information about the biology of the immune cells that cause AMD and will allow for the development of more tailored treatments in the future.”

University of Montreal ophthalmology professor, Przemyslaw Sapieha, highlighted that the research team wanted to understand why some people with a genetic predisposition for AMD develop the condition, while others do not.

“Although considerable effort has been invested in understanding the genes responsible for AMD, variations and mutations in susceptibility genes only increase the risk of developing the disease, but do not cause it,” he said.

“This observation suggests that we must gain a better understanding of how other factors such as environment and lifestyle contribute to disease development,” Sapieha added.

Being overweight is the second riskiest non-genetic factor for the development of AMD, behind smoking.