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Smoking and the pathogenesis of macular degeneration

Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Investigator(s): Lincoln Johnson, Ph.D.
Award Cycle: 2001 (Cycle 10) Grant #: 10RT-0250 Award: $316,038
Subject Area: General Biomedical Science
Award Type: Research Project Awards

Initial Award Abstract
Macular degeneration is the eye disease that is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60 in this country. The disease causes the death of the light sensitive “photoreceptor” cells in a specialized part of the retina called the macula, thus the name macular degeneration. The macula is a small but very important part of the retina; it is responsible for “fine acuity vision”, the vision one uses when driving, reading, sewing, watching television or any activity requiring fine focus. Unfortunately, no treatment has been shown to be consistently effective in preventing macular degeneration or reversing the loss of vision caused by the disease.

A number of clinical studies have shown that people who smoke cigarettes are two to four times more likely to suffer loss of vision due to macular degeneration than are non-smokers. The studies detailed in this proposal will begin to determine why, at the most basic cellular and molecular levels, this is true. The studies will determine experimentally whether tobacco-derived compounds and/or oxidative stress cause abnormalities in the “retinal pigmented epithelial cells” of the eye. These “RPE” cells are important to the survival and well being of the photoreceptor cells of the retina, and dysfunction in these cells is regarded as a key element in the development of macular degeneration.

The goal of the studies is to assess whether, under experimental exposure to tobacco-derived compounds or oxidative conditions, RPE cells exhibit abnormal patterns of production of molecules that (1) form harmful deposits called drusen in the eyes of individuals with macular degeneration or (2) are involved in stimulating the growth of blood vessels in the neovascular or “wet” form of the disease. These studies will lead to a better understanding of the relationship between smoking and macular degeneration and have the potential to lead to the development of treatments that will reduce visual loss due to this devastating disease.

Changes in RPE cell expression induced by tobacco smoke constituents
Periodical: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Index Medicus:
Authors: Madeke MJ, Staples MK, Lightfoot AL, Anderson DH, Johnson LV ABS
Yr: 0 Vol: Nbr: Abs: Pg: