Based on the discovery of two genes, complement factor H and factor B, that is responsible for 74% of cases of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has granted a research team led by the University of Iowa a five-year, $14.6 million grant to further study the role of the genes in the immune system. Utimately, the researchers are hoping to develop diagnostic tools, and explore treatment avenues where malfunctioning proteins in genetically predisposed individuals may be replaced, augmented or removed, and thus prevent AMD, or another related eye disorder arising from membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis type II (MPGN II), a rare kidney disease.
The investigation includes efforts to determine whether other genes are associated with AMD and whether other inflammation-based diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are caused by dysfunction of the same, or a related, pathway. Additional aims involve studying the biology of the eye’s complement system to determine whether proteins and markers, other than a vision test, can reveal vision decline due to AMD. Other efforts funded by the grant would involve drug design and development and clinical trials.