Genetic Explains 74 percent of age-related macular degeneration

A new study, led by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, pinpoints the role that two genes – Factor H and Factor B – play in the development of nearly three out of four cases of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a devastating eye disease that affects more than 10 million people in the United States.

Findings indicate that 74 percent of AMD patients carry certain variants in one or both genes that significantly increase their risk of this disease.

While Factor H is an inhibitor of the immune response to infection, Factor B is an activator. Because of the complementary roles of the these two genes, a protective Factor B variation can protect against AMD, even if one carries a risk-increasing variant of Factor H, and vice versa.

"I am not aware of any other complex disorder where nearly 75 percent of genetic causality has been identified," said Dr. Rando Allikmets, who is senior author of the paper.

More than 50 million people worldwide are estimated to have irreversible blindness as a result of macular degeneration, making it the most common cause of blindness for those over 60. It's estimated that 30 percent of the population will have some form of AMD by the time they reach the age of seventy-five. The disease is marked by a progressive loss of central vision due to degeneration of the macula--a region of the retina and the area responsible for fine, central vision.

New genetic discovery explains 74 percent cases of age-related macular degeneration

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