Study shows cholesterol-lowering eye drops fight blindness in elderly

woman applying eyedroppes, close up

woman applying eyedroppes, close up  (iStock)

New research shows that a cholesterol-lowering eye drop may help fight macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over 50, Medical Daily reported.

The study, conducted by Cell Press, examined how cholesterol deposits in white blood cells, known as macrophages, can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

"Our increased understanding of cholesterol's role in the growth of ocular blood vessels helped us identify therapeutically modifiable pathways, opening up avenues for new treatments that may help us prevent blindness caused by macular degeneration,” senior study author Rajendra Apte, of Washington University School of Medicine, told Medical Daily.

Apte and his research team looked at macrophage samples from both humans and mice with AMD and discovered they had low levels of ABCA1 – a protein used for removing cholesterol from the cells. Without the ability to transport cholesterol out of the macrophages, blood vessels develop in larger numbers until they eventually cause blindness, according to Medical Daily.

The mice with AMD were treated with two types of cholesterol regulators, Liver X Receptor and microRNAs-33. Both compounds – given in an eye solution and injected – contributed to the increase of ABCA1 protein levels, which helped lower cholesterol buildup in white blood cells.

According to the researchers, this discovery can potentially aid people with diseases other than just AMD.

"Abnormal blood vessel growth is a characteristic of not only AMD, but also diverse disease processes outside the eye, including cancers and atherosclerosis, which are both associated with significant morbidity and mortality," Apte told Medical Daily. "Our findings may have significant relevance in our understanding of the pathobiology of these conditions."

The entire study was published in the April 2 edition of the journal Cell Metabolism.

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