Role of High Fat Diet and Gut Microbiome in Macular Degeneration

Principal Investigator

Summary

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in adults over 50, is a complex disease in which genetic risk and lifestyle factors like diet play important roles, but the mechanisms by which these factors interact remain a mystery blocking the development of a cure and of prevention measures. Gut microbiome (millions of microbes living in our gut) play a key role in human health and diseases like cancer, allergies, dementia, and asthma, and are significantly affected by diet and lifestyle factors.

The goal of this innovative proposal is to study if gut microbes could be the missing link that connects diet/lifestyle factors and AMD by investigating how changes in the microbes in the gut by diet affect AMD development. This approach will help uncover mechanisms causing AMD and could provide a new breakthrough insight into new treatments that work by changing our gut microbiome to prevent the leading cause of blindness in our community.

Detailed Non-Technical Summary

The goal of our proposal is to study whether gut microbiome (millions of microbes living in our gut) could be the missing link that connects lifestyle factors, like diet and genetic risk in AMD development.  

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness among adults over 50, is a complex disease in which genetic risk plays a role but disease development appears to be significantly affected by lifestyle factors like diet. Our team has shown for the first time that a Western-style diet combined with genetic risk exacerbates AMD development in animal models. Understanding the interactions between diet, genetic risk and AMD development is crucial for the development of treatments for prevention and cure.

Gut microbes play a key role in human health and disease. There is strong evidence that gut microbiome crucially affects development of diseases like Crohn’s disease, allergies, and brain diseases like Alzheimer and Parkinson’s. Gut microbes are significantly affected by diet and lifestyle factors, especially Western-style diets high in fat. Interestingly, changes in gut microbes by diet are responsible for the development of bowel disease in genetically predisposed animals.  In Aim 1, we plan to study if diet induces changes in gut microbes, which trigger changes in the retina. In Aim 2, we will study the role of diet and gut microbes in animal models of AMD.

Using unique AMD animal models with altered microbiome is an innovative and invaluable tool to answer crucial questions about gut microbiome’s role in AMD. Gut microbiome can be easily manipulated through diet, targeted probiotics, and microbiome-based agents. This project will help uncover the mechanisms causing AMD, and could provide a new breakthrough insight into novel treatments and preventative strategies for AMD.

First published on: August 29, 2018

Last modified on: December 02, 2022