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Age-related Macular Degeneration Research

Contact: Amanda White

 

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“AMD is the principal cause of irreversible, registered legal blindness on three continents. While this animal model is not an exact replica of the human condition, it gives us a method to study how and why humans develop AMD and provides a platform on which to develop and validate new therapeutic strategies.”

-- Jayakrishna Ambati, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology,
director of ophthalmic research, UK College of Medicine

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 20, 2003) -- Jayakrishna Ambati, M.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and director of ophthalmic research, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, will report in the November issue of Nature Medicine a discovery in age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Ambati and colleagues have discovered the first animal model of AMD that is quite similar to key elements of AMD in humans.

“AMD is the principal cause of irreversible, registered legal blindness on three continents,” Ambati said. “While this animal model is not an exact replica of the human condition, it gives us a method to study how and why humans develop AMD and provides a platform on which to develop and validate new therapeutic strategies.”

Ambati’s AMD animal model closely resembles the anatomical appearance, biochemical composition, and functional disruption of AMD in humans.

“Existing animal models attempting to simulate AMD through high-fat diets and phototoxicity, senescence acceleration, or candidate gene manipulation do not fully replicate the clinical, histologic and angiographic features of the human condition,” Ambati said.

According to Ambati, features of AMD developed in mice deficient in either monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (Ccl-2) or its cognate C-C chemolkine receptor 2 (Ccr-2). The animal model presented accumulation of lipofuscin, which is a dark brown naturally occurring pigment found in the retina of aged persons; drusen, which are deposits beneath the retina; and photoreceptor degeneration. All are found in people with AMD. As these mice aged, they also developed choroidal neovascularization (CNV), the devastating growth of abnormal blood vessels beneath the retina that leads to irreversible loss of vision.

Earlier this year, Ambati was awarded a Dennis W. Jahnigen Career Development Scholars Award from the American Geriatric Society, the leading clinical society devoted to the care of older adults.

The Jahnigen Scholars program addresses the urgent need to create a structure for developing leaders in geriatrics in academic surgery and related medical specialties. Each program award provides two-year salary and research support ($200,000) intended to assist young clinical research faculty in initiating or sustaining careers in research and education in the geriatric aspects of their disciplines.


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