AMD: smoking and obesity would activate genes linked to the disease

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AMD: smoking and obesity would activate genes linked to the disease

Image of the retina of an eye obtained during a CT scan.

Obesity and smoking seem to increase the risk of seeing patients who are genetically predisposed to suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to work carried out by a Montreal researcher.

Such life stressors reprogram cells of the immune system and make them destructive to the eye as we age, a statement said.

< p class="e-p">AMD affects approximately 2.5 million people in Canada and is the leading cause of blindness in people aged 55 and over.

Mutations in susceptibility genes can quadruple the risk of developing the disease, said study author Dr. #x27;Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosemont, but it was unclear why some people who develop the disease have the mutation, and other people who have the same mutations never develop the disease.

It is not certain, if we have this mutation, that we will develop the disease, he explained during a telephone conversation. These mutations do not cause the disease, they are more predisposing factors. So that would mean that environmental factors would also be very important.

Dr. Sapieha and his colleagues are therefore interested in the epidemiology of the disease, namely all the factors that may be associated with it. They found that smoking is the main environmental stressor that can cause AMD. Obesity comes in second place.

Their work lies at the intersection of the interaction between environment and genetics, which #x27;we call it epigenetics.

Periods of overload of certain fats in the body can reprogram the DNA of immune cells called macrophages, detailed Dr. Sapieha, which will make them more aggressive in the tissues of the eye and will be to the origin of degeneration.

Researchers believe that the same mechanism could be at play in diseases that affect the brain or spinal cord.

This discovery paves the way for the possible development of therapeutic interventions to calm these immune cells that have become too aggressive, or even for the development of screening tests.

The study will further solidify the link between obesity and the development of the disease, concluded Dr. Sapieha. So if we arrive in front of a patient who has a mutation, who is obese or who has already been obese, who has had periods of excessive fat in his life, these are all factors that we will now have to look at to really ensure better and closer follow-up of the patient.

The conclusions of this study have been published by the prestigious journal Science.

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