This study finds new drug to treat blinding eye disease in older people

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More than 11 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.

And this number is expected to double by 2050 as the U.S. population ages.

Of the two types of macular degeneration—wet and dry—the dry form is the most common, making up approximately 80 to 90% of cases.

While the progression of dry AMD can be slowed with lifestyle changes, such as taking vitamin supplements, eating healthy, and not smoking, no pharmaceutical treatment exists.

Dry AMD is caused by the progressive accumulation of drusen, pebble-like deposits at the back of the eye, which results in blurry vision and, over time, vision loss.

In a recent study at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, researchers found that the blood protein vitronectin is a promising drug target for dry AMD.

The finding also holds implications for Alzheimer’s and heart disease, which are linked to vitronectin.

The study is published in PNAS. One author is Francesca Marassi, Ph.D.

In the study, the team used the structure of vitronectin and various sophisticated biophysical tools to find how vitronectin drives the formation of the abnormal deposits—and reveal how this process might be interrupted.

The team says the new drug would hold promise as a treatment that slows the progression of dry AMD and potentially other plaque-related conditions.

Vitronectin is also a major component of the amyloid plaques linked to Alzheimer’s disease and the cholesterol-rich plaques that cause heart disease.

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