Researchers at UCI have developed an animal model that mimics the onset and progression of age-related macular degeneration, an incurable disease that is the fourth-leading cause of blindness globally. The model serves as a means for testing the efficacy of possible treatments and cures.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a retinal disease which affects nearly 6.2 million people, making it the fourth-leading cause of blindness globally. AMD occurs when extracellular lipids and proteins, called drusen, are deposited in the macula (center of the retina). Over time, the drusen aggregate and eventually vascularize, leading to distortion in and ultimately loss of vision. There is currently no known cure for AMD. Studies into the treatment and pathology of AMD typically rely on human clinical trials and in vitro models, respectively. Human trials are often limited in sample size and are expensive and possibly dangerous to conduct. In vitro models do not account for the cellular architecture and signaling involved in the progression of AMD, and are therefore limited in accuracy.
The researchers at UCI have developed an entirely in vivo model of AMD utilizing New Zealand white rabbits. By carefully subjecting the rabbits to various external stimuli over a period of several weeks, they were able to induce symptoms of AMD including retinal inflammation and drusen deposition. As the stage and severity of the disease are controlled by the extent of exposure to the external stimuli, researchers can monitor not only the onset but also the progression of AMD in the rabbits, making them a useful model for testing the efficacy of proposed preventions and methods.
For testing diagnostic and pharmaceutical interventions for age-related macular degeneration and other degenerative retinal diseases
In the experimental stage; the model has been validated with one rabbit so far and is currently being tested in several others.