Gene discovery may help hunt for blindness cure

Tue Oct 7, 2008 5:34am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists have discovered a gene mutation linked to the most common cause of blindness in the developed world, holding out the prospect of better treatments and perhaps eventually a cure.

British scientists said on Tuesday they had found six variants within the gene called Serping1 that were associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

"Our findings add to the growing understanding of the genetics of age-related macular degeneration, which should ultimately lead to novel treatments for this common and devastating disease," Sarah Ennis and Andrew Lotery of the University of Southampton reported in the Lancet journal.

AMD -- which involves damage to the delicate cells of the macula, a region at the center of the retina -- is increasingly common as people get older.

Around 90 percent of patients diagnosed with AMD have the so-called dry version, for which no treatment is currently available.

The rest have wet AMD, which occurs when tiny new blood vessels grow between the retina and the back of the eye. This form of the disease can be treated with modern drugs.

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Dominic Evans

<p>A simulation of age-related macular degeneration in an image coutesy of the U.S. Department of Health. REUTERS/Handout</p>