The scientists found that human cytomegalovirus, a type of herpesvirus, causes the production of vascular endothelial growth factor, or VEGF, a signal protein that regulates the formation of new blood vessels.
With the formation of new blood vessels, retinal tissue destruction occurs, leading to the development of "wet" AMD and eventually, vision loss and blindness. The results were published in PLoS Pathogens, a journal of the Public Library of Science.
"Prior to this work, cofactors for the development of AMD included genetics, a high fat diet and smoking. Now, we are adding an infections agent as another cofactor," said Richard D. Dix, professor at the Georgia State Viral Immunology Center's Ocular Virology and Immunology Laboratory.
The research team includes Dix, Scott W. Cousins, Diego G. Espinosa-Heidmann, Daniel M. Miller, Simone Pereira-Simon, Eleut P. Hernandez, Hsin Chien and Courtney Meier-Jewett.
Affiliated research institutions include the Duke University Eye Center, the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the Viral Immunology Center at Georgia State, and the Department of Ophthalmology at the Emory University School of Medicine.
Human cytomegalovirus is a common herpesvirus, said Dix, who is also an adjunct professor of ophthalmology at the Emory University School of Medicine. About 80 percent of the population is estimated to have antibodies for the virus, and it is often acquired during childhood.
If a person has a normal, healthy immune system, the virus becomes latent in the cells of bone marrow and blood, he said. But in the elderly, the immune system's function is reduced, the virus proliferates, and the production of VEGF increases.
Identifying human cytomegalovirus as a cofactor in the development of AMD opens up new paths for the treatment of AMD, Dix said. One route could include reducing the viral load – the amount of the human cytomegalovirus in the blood stream – by treatment with an antiviral drug known as ganciclovir.
Additional research paths include looking at the genetics involved in the upregulation of VEGF by human cytomegalovirus.
"If we can knock down a certain gene or genes of the virus that stimulates VEGF production, we might be able to decrease it production and minimize AMD," Dix said.
The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health grants EY/AI 012218 (SWC), EY 010568 (RDD), core grant NIH P30 EY 06360, as well as Fight for Sight.
The article is Cousins SW, Espinosa-Heidmann DG, Miller DM, Pereira-Simon S, Hernandez EP, Chien H, Meier-Jewett, and Dix RD (2012) Macrophage Activation Associated with Chronic Murine Cytomegalovirus Infection Results in More Severe Experimental Choroidal Neovascularization. PLoS Pathog 8(4): e1002671. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002671.
Jeremy Craig | EurekAlert!
When wheels and heads are spinning - DFG research project on motion sickness in automated driving
22.05.2019 | Technische Universität Berlin
A new approach to targeting cancer cells
20.05.2019 | University of California - Riverside
Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.
The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...
Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...
With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.
Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...
'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.
However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...
Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future
When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...
29.04.2019 | Event News
17.04.2019 | Event News
15.04.2019 | Event News
23.05.2019 | Materials Sciences
23.05.2019 | Materials Sciences
23.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy