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Penn Dental Medicine Study Models Age-related Macular Degeneration

A team led by Kathleen Boesze-Battaglia, PhD, a professor of the Department of Biochemistry at Penn Dental Medicine, has characterized a new animal model that mimics important features of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), in particular, how lipids are handled in the eye.

A team led by Kathleen Boesze-Battaglia, PhD, a professor of the Department of Biochemistry at Penn Dental Medicine, has characterized a new animal model that mimics important features of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), in particular, how lipids are handled in the eye. The model will help researchers probe the environmental risk factors that promote the condition, and eventually perhaps help them craft a successful treatment, according to the university.

The study, “Microtubule-Associated Protein 1 Light Chain 3B, (LC3B) Is Necessary to Maintain Lipid-Mediated Homeostasis in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium,” published in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, builds off the team’s previous research. In that work, Boesze-Battaglia examined how the retinal pigment epithelium, the layer of cells that ingest and shed outer segments from the photoreceptors, metabolizes lipids. They found that this process is accomplished with assistance from a group of proteins in the microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 (LC3) family. After finding a protein that bound to one of these family members, LC3B, the group used a mutant mouse lacking LC3B to assess the effects the loss has on visual function.

Investigators used noninvasive imaging to observe that older mice with the mutation had abnormalities in their retinas, indicative of dysfunction. With a useful animal model, the researchers hope to further investigate both risk factors and possible therapies for AMD. In addition, the model gives scientists a way to evaluate the therapeutic utility of compounds that enhance the lipid-clearing process.

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