Common bone, tooth mineral linked to drusen?

Common bone, tooth mineral linked to drusen?

Tiny spherules of calcium phosphate could prove key in the early detection of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) after researchers draw a connection between the mineral and drusen. 

"The more we understand about AMD ... the closer we are to finding better treatments and hopefully, one day, a cure."

Recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, research from the University College London (UCL) found the amount of hollow, hydroxyapatite spherules inside the eye correlated with the buildup of drusen—the more hydroxyapatite, the more drusen.

Researchers say the mineral, commonly found in bones and teeth, was found present in eyes even before drusen showed up in a clinical examination. It is believed the spherules attract proteins and fats that buildup to form drusen.

The study involved a post-mortem examination of 30 eyes between the ages of 43 and 96 where fluorescent dyes were used to identify the spherules that are only a few micrometers across.

Researchers say the fluorescent technique should be compatible with existing diagnostic machines if a safe delivery method can be identified. Furthermore, some of the spherules were also coated with amyloid beta, the protein linked with Alzheimer's disease, possibly offering a way to detect the disease.

Putting research in focus
Early detection is key to treating AMD, the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50. An estimated 1.8 million Americans are affected by AMD while another 7.3 million with large drusen are at substantial risk for AMD-related vision loss.

Steven G. Ferrucci, O.D., chief of optometry at Sepulveda VA Medical Center and professor at Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University, says earlier diagnosis of AMD is important, but cautions the UCL research is a small study and more research is necessary.

"The more we understand about AMD—its risk factors, pathophysiology, its genetic components—the closer we are to finding better treatments and hopefully, one day, a cure," Dr. Ferrucci says.

The AOA offers AMD resources for members, including the Care of the Patient with Age-Related Macular Degeneration clinical practice guideline, and AOA Marketplace products, such as patient pamphlets, gallery prints and fact sheets.

February 16, 2015

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