AMD biological marker discovered

June 17, 2009

A biological marker for neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Kentucky.

A biological marker for neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has been discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Kentucky.

The findings, which were published in Nature, detail the marker, a receptor known as CCR3, and demonstrates its strong potential as a means for both the early detection of the disease and for preventive treatment.

The CCR3 chemokine receptor is already known to be a key player in allergic inflammation processes , however, the researchers have know discovered that the molecule is expressed on the surface of choroidal neovascularisation (CNV) vessels in humans but is absent from normal vascular tissue. The team also discovered that CCR3 not only provides a unique signature for CNV, but the gene actively promotes the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye. Therefore, the same anti-CCR3 antibodies used to detect CNV could potentially be used as a clinical treatment for AMD.

"This is a major paradigm shift in macular degeneration," commented lead researcher Dr Jayakrishna Ambati. "With CCR3, we have for the first time found a unique molecular signature for the disease. This brings us closer than we have ever been to developing a clinical diagnostic tool to discover and treat the disease early, before vision is lost."

Early trials look promising, with anti-CCR3 antibodies reducing CNV in mice by about 70%, as opposed to 60% with VEGF-based treatments. It is thought that clinical trials will begin soon.

Dr Ambati was recently won the 2010 ARVO award. To read more, please click here.