Protein known as ‘dicer1’ linked to AMD

New information on the causes and possible prevention of age-related macular degeneration or AMD has been published in the scientific journal Nature, and researchers are cautiously optimistic about the reported findings.  Macular degeneration is the most common cause of blindness, especially in the elderly.  Based on current medical knowledge, the disease results from the breakdown and death of light-sensitive cells in the retina at the back of the eye.

The new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Kentucky and other research centres around the world including Korea, Australia and Canada, discovered a link between the lack of a protein known as ‘dicer1’ and AMD.  Dicer1 appears to protect the retinal cells from the build-up of a toxic molecule called Alu RNA.  When this particular substance is not checked, it leads to the death of photo-sensitive cells and in turn to failure of vision.

Jayakrishna Ambati, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Kentucky, has said that he and his colleagues have developed drugs that combat the build-up of Alu RNA and promote the levels of dicer1.  However, researchers acknowledged that the reason or reasons for the lack of the protective dicer1 protein are not yet known, and much more study will be needed before any sort of cure or preventative measures can be marketed.