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Loss Of Anti-Aging Gene Linked to Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Update Date: Oct 09, 2013 09:34 AM EDT

Loss of an anti-aging gene might be responsible for age-related macular degeneration which is a major cause of blindness in the elderly, a study finds. The anti-aging gene induces retinal degeneration in mice.

A team of researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) demonstrated the key role for the aging-suppressor gene Klotho in terms of maintaining the health of the human retina and mouse. According to them, loss of the gene Klotho expression led to characteristics noticed in both kinds of macular degeneration in humans. These include wet and dry type of macular degeneration.

“We found four important functions Klotho provides in the human retina, which leads us to believe that the gene is crucial to the health of this light sensitive tissue,” says the study’s senior investigator, Nady Golestaneh, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, neurology, biochemistry and molecular & cellular biology at GUMC, in a press release.

In their study they found that Klotho increased the activity of genes that synthesize the light absorbing visual pigments residing in the retinal cells. In addition Klotho also increased the expression of genes that protect against the oxidative stress which is known to damage the retina. Subsequently it can lead to dry macular degeneration.

“For these reasons, we believe Klotho might be an interesting therapeutic target for age-related macular degeneration,” Golestaneh said. “Gene therapy or cell therapy might be able to induce new expression of Klotho in the aging retina.”

Golestaneh also adds that before these strategies can be tested, research that quantifies the decline of Klotho expression in human eyes, and directly links this dysfunction to macular degeneration, should be undertaken.

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