Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is characterized by a heightened immune response, sizeable
deposits of fat debris at the back of the eye called soft drusen (early
AMD), destruction of nerve cells, and growth of new diseased blood
vessels (wet AMD, late form). It is the leading cause of
irreversible blindness in the industrialized world, affecting over 10
million individuals in North America.
While only accounting for roughly 10% of cases of AMD, wet AMD is the primary form leading to blindness. Current treatments becomes less effective with time. It is therefore important to find new ways to prevent the onset of this debilitating disease.
A study lead by Dr. Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha, researcher at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont (CIUSSS de l'Est-de-l'Île-de-Montréal) and professor at the University of Montreal, published in EMBO Molecular Medicine, uncovered that bacteria in your intestines may play an important role in determining if you will develop blinding wet AMD.
Elisabeth Andriessen, a PhD student in the lab of Professor Sapieha found that changes in the bacterial communities of your gut, such as those brought on by a diet rich in fat, can cause long-term low-grade inflammation in your whole body and eventually promote diseases such as wet AMD. Among the series of experiments conducted as part of this study, the group performed fecal transfers from mice receiving regular fat diets, compared to those receiving a high fat diet, and found a significant amelioration of wet AMD.
"Our study suggests that diets rich in fat alter the gut microbiome in a way that aggravates wet AMD, a vascular disease of the aging eye. Influencing the types of microbes that reside in your gut either through diet or by other means may thus affect the chances of developing AMD and progression of this blinding disease", says Dr. Sapieha. Professor Sapieha holds the Wolfe Professorship in Translational Vision Research and a Canada Research Chair in retinal cell biology.
The study was funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and thr Fond de Recherche en Ophthalmologie de l'Université de Montreal.