A research team, including an Indian-origin boffin, has found that the most common - and under-diagnosed - genetic disease in humans just may be a cause of the worst form of macular degeneration.
Medical College of Georgia researchers are pursuing a link between hemochromatosis, which results in iron overload, and the wet form of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people 60 and older.
They suspect that too much iron, known to wreak cumulative havoc on the body's organs, hastens normal aging of the eyes.
If they are correct, avoiding the most severe consequences of a disease that robs the central vision could be as simple as donating blood a couple times annually to reduce iron levels, said Dr. Vadivel Ganapathy, chairman of the MCG School of Medicine Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.
Dr. Julian Nussbaum, a retinal specialist who chairs the School of Medicine's Department of Ophthalmology and co-directs MCG's Vision Discovery Institute, said: "If this is a predisposing risk for macular degeneration, we have a very useful tool for screening patients. We can give patients information right off the bat that may help them."