Led by ophthalmologst, professor Andrew Lotery (pictured), researchers at Southampton General Hospital discovered that almost two-thirds (65%) of liver transplant patients had developed some form of the sight threatening condition, which can lead to blindness. As a result, professor Lotery has called for more emphasis to be placed on the eye health of liver transplant patients, with regular monitoring recommended and the prompt referral to ophthalmologists if AMD is detected.
During the three-year study, which aimed to explore the relationship between the eye disease and transplantation, the team of experts monitored 223 Western European patients aged 55 years and over who had received a liver transplant at least five years previously.
Prior to the study, a mutation which causes the complement factor H (CFH) gene in the liver to produce abnormal proteins had been pinpointed as more common to AMD sufferers, possibly causing inflammation in the eye.
Professor Lotery said: "This study has provided us with some invaluable insights into this complex eye disease and the intriguing science behind CFH.
"As a result of this project, in which we were primarily looking at whether or not fault-free genes could affect the development of AMD, we have discovered liver transplant patients have a high incidence of AMD and that was unexpected."
The specialists were keen to discover if receiving a new liver, without the mutation, had an effect on the development of AMD and inflammation in the eye. They aimed to determine if AMD treatment given systemically could be more effective than being administered directly into the eye. They reported that levels of inflammation in the eye remained unchanged in patients with AMD after a liver transplant, concluding that the liver is not responsible for the development of AMD and therefore AMD treatment directly into the eye was likely to be most successful.
The research, which was published in the journal Ophthalmology, was funded by TFC Frost Charitable Trust and the Gift of Sight appeal.