International team delivers research breakthrough for leading cause of blindness

Researchers have identified a new protein linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD) that could offer new hope for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, which affects more than 1.5 million people in the UK alone.

The research team, made up of scientists from Cardiff University, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Manchester, and Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, found significantly higher levels of a protein called factor H-related protein 4 (FHR-4) in the blood of AMD patients.

Further investigation, using eye tissue donated for medical research, showed the presence of the FHR-4 protein within the macula – the specific region of the eye affected by the disease.

The results of the study, published today in Nature Communications, open up new routes for the early diagnosis, by measuring FHR-4 levels in the blood, and suggests therapies targeting this protein could provide promising future treatment options for the disease.

Professor Paul Morgan, an expert in complement biology at Cardiff University, and leader in the development of the antibodies and assays that underpinned this work, said: “The collaboration between experts in complement biology, eye disease and genetics across Europe has enabled the accumulation of a robust body of evidence that genetically dictated FHR-4 levels in plasma are an important predictor of risk of developing AMD.

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