Toxic DNA buildup in eyes with macular degeneration can cause blindness - study

Macular degeneration affects around 200 million people worldwide. Geographic atrophy is age-related and destroys the light-sensing portion of the eye.

Eyesight (illustrative) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Eyesight (illustrative)
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Scientists have discovered a buildup of damaging DNA in the eyes of patients with macular degeneration, which in turn could cause blindness.

This new research comes from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and was published in the journal Science Advances.

Scientists have suggested, according to their research, that common HIV drugs may help stop vision loss.

The harmful DNA that is a threat to one's eyes is referred to as the Alu cDNA.

According to the researchers, these new findings offer insights into how geographic atrophy progresses over time. 

A model of the protein (the blue ribbon) and the DNA (the spheres) is binds (credit: WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE)A model of the protein (the blue ribbon) and the DNA (the spheres) is binds (credit: WEIZMANN INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE)

“Although we’ve known that geographic atrophy expands over time, we didn’t know how or why,” said Ambati, of UVA’s Department of Ophthalmology and Center for Advanced Vision Science. 

Macular degeneration affects around 200 million people worldwide. Geographic atrophy is age-related and destroys the light-sensing portion of the eye.

Ambati, a top expert in macular degeneration, discovered that this destruction is caused by the buildup of Alu DNA.

Ambati concluded that Alu DNA triggers inflammation in the eye, which can be combated with HIV drugs such as nucleoside or NRTIs. Researchers discovered this by testing the drugs on lab mice.

“Our findings from human eyes show that these toxic molecules, which activate the inflammasome, are most abundant precisely in the area of greatest disease activity,” Ambati said.