How Age-Related Macular Degeneration Risk Factors Interact in Disease Development
Risk factors for age-related macular degeneration include genetics, age, and diet. Freye Mowat, PhD, plans to investigate how these three factors interact in the development of the disease at different levels of biology. She and her colleagues will examine how the trio of factors affects vision, patterns of gene expression, and metabolic function of the eye.
Using lab models of age-related macular degeneration, Dr. Mowat and her colleagues will focus on high dietary glucose, a gene implicated in mitochondrial effects in the disease, and age. They predict that the three risk factors combined will result in the features of age-related macular degeneration in their model, which will allow them to sort out the biological pathways under their influence.
One novel aspect of their work will be its focus on how DNA is regulated by the addition or removal of chemical tags that affect gene availability and expression. This regulation, callled DNA methylation, has not been clarified especially in early stages of the disease. Using their model and assessing the effects of the risk factors separately and together, Dr. Mowat and her colleagues will produce a first picture of these early patterns under the influence of diet, aging, and genetics.
Their aim is to produce a thorough, in-depth model of these effects that researchers can use in developing and testing candidate treatments. Such a model could be used, for example, in testing whether candidate therapies prevent accumulation of molecular changes associated with this suite of risk factors.