Promising discovery could help prevent age-related macular degeneration

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Researchers at the University of Kentucky have announced a major breakthrough in the prevention and early detection of neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The condition affects between 10 million and 12 million Americans and is the number-one cause of blindness among seniors.

At the annual meeting of the American Medical Association on Monday, researchers identified a biological marker, known as CCR3, that they say is integral to the development and progression of eye disease. AMD is caused when new, abnormal blood cells invade the retina and interfere with the eye's ability to receive oxygen and nutrients in a process called choroidal novascularization (CNV).

The CCR3 marker, which also plays a role in the inflammation process, was found on the CNV vessels, but not on normal vascular tissue, according to the report. By injecting anti-CCR3 antibodies into mice, researchers were able to see the CCR3 markers on the CNV vessels before the new abnormal blood cells invaded the retinas, causing irreversible damage. Early therapy test results appeared promising, with 70% reductions in CNV among the test mice, according to the report.

The findings were published Sunday in the online version of the journal Nature and will appear in an upcoming print issue.