Advancements in the understanding of why the human immune system can attack tissues and lead to the development of eye and kidney diseases have been reported by researchers at the University of Manchester.
It is believed the findings could lead to the development of new treatments for age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
According to scientists, AMD can be associated with a protein called the complement factor H (CFH) which is present in the immune system and is responsible for regulating the complement cascade. A genetic alteration in CFH has been found to increase a person’s risk of developing AMD. However, due to its rarity, it has never been explored before.
The two research groups, led by professors Tony Day and Paul Bishop, found that a common form of CFH, when altered, couldn’t bind properly to a layer under the retina called Bruch’s membrane. A reduced amount of CFH in this part of the eye leads to low-level inflammation and tissue damage, which can eventually lead to AMD.
Professor Day explained: “For the first time we’ve been able to identify why these protein mutations are so tissue specific. We’re hoping our discovery will open the door to the development of tissue specific treatments to help the millions of people diagnosed with AMD every year.”
Researchers investigated two parts of CFH affected by the mutations, comparing the way the different regions of protein interacted with eye and kidney tissue.
Dr Simon Clark said: “Our findings suggest that the particular structure within the eye and kidney tissue determines precisely how and where CFH will bind. It’s as if the tissues have their own molecular postcodes.”
The research was carried out at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research and the Ophthalmology and Vision Research Group in the University of Manchester’s Institute of Human Development. It was funded by the Medical Research Council.