Age-related Macular Degeneration

Fernandez-Godino R, Garland DL, Pierce EA. A local complement response by RPE causes early-stage macular degeneration. Hum Mol Genet 2015;24(19):5555-69.Abstract

Inherited and age-related macular degenerations (AMDs) are important causes of vision loss. An early hallmark of these disorders is the formation of sub-retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) basal deposits. A role for the complement system in MDs was suggested by genetic association studies, but direct functional connections between alterations in the complement system and the pathogenesis of MD remain to be defined. We used primary RPE cells from a mouse model of inherited MD due to a p.R345W mutation in EGF-containing fibulin-like extracellular matrix protein 1 (EFEMP1) to investigate the role of the RPE in early MD pathogenesis. Efemp1(R345W) RPE cells recapitulate the basal deposit formation observed in vivo by producing sub-RPE deposits in vitro. The deposits share features with basal deposits, and their formation was mediated by EFEMP1(R345W) or complement component 3a (C3a), but not by complement component 5a (C5a). Increased activation of complement appears to occur in response to an abnormal extracellular matrix (ECM), generated by the mutant EFEMP1(R345W) protein and reduced ECM turnover due to inhibition of matrix metalloproteinase 2 by EFEMP1(R345W) and C3a. Increased production of C3a also stimulated the release of cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-1B, which appear to have a role in deposit formation, albeit downstream of C3a. These studies provide the first direct indication that complement components produced locally by the RPE are involved in the formation of basal deposits. Furthermore, these results suggest that C3a generated by RPE is a potential therapeutic target for the treatment of EFEMP1-associated MD as well as AMD.

Fernandez-Godino R, Pierce EA, Garland DL. Extracellular Matrix Alterations and Deposit Formation in AMD. Adv Exp Med Biol 2016;854:53-8.Abstract

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the primary cause of vision loss in the western world (Friedman et al., Arch Ophthalmol 122:564-572, 2004). The first clinical indication of AMD is the presence of drusen. However, with age and prior to the formation of drusen, extracellular basal deposits accumulate between the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and Bruch's membrane (BrM). Many studies on the molecular composition of the basal deposits and drusen have demonstrated the presence of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, complement components and cellular debris. The evidence reviewed here suggests that alteration in RPE cell function might be the primary cause for the accumulation of ECM and cellular debri found in basal deposits. Further studies are obviously needed in order to unravel the specific pathways that lead to abnormal formation of ECM and complement activation.

Fritsche LG, Igl W, Bailey JCN, Grassmann F, Sengupta S, Bragg-Gresham JL, Burdon KP, Hebbring SJ, Wen C, Gorski M, Kim IK, Cho D, Zack D, Souied E, Scholl HPN, Bala E, Lee KE, Hunter DJ, Sardell RJ, Mitchell P, Merriam JE, Cipriani V, Hoffman JD, Schick T, Lechanteur YTE, Guymer RH, Johnson MP, Jiang Y, Stanton CM, Buitendijk GHS, Zhan X, Kwong AM, Boleda A, Brooks M, Gieser L, Ratnapriya R, Branham KE, Foerster JR, Heckenlively JR, Othman MI, Vote BJ, Liang HH, Souzeau E, McAllister IL, Isaacs T, Hall J, Lake S, Mackey DA, Constable IJ, Craig JE, Kitchner TE, Yang Z, Su Z, Luo H, Chen D, Ouyang H, Flagg K, Lin D, Mao G, Ferreyra H, Stark K, von Strachwitz CN, Wolf A, Brandl C, Rudolph G, Olden M, Morrison MA, Morgan DJ, Schu M, Ahn J, Silvestri G, Tsironi EE, Park KH, Farrer LA, Orlin A, Brucker A, Li M, Curcio CA, Mohand-Saïd S, Sahel J-A, Audo I, Benchaboune M, Cree AJ, Rennie CA, Goverdhan SV, Grunin M, Hagbi-Levi S, Campochiaro P, Katsanis N, Holz FG, Blond F, Blanché H, Deleuze J-F, Igo RP, Truitt B, Peachey NS, Meuer SM, Myers CE, Moore EL, Klein R, Hauser MA, Postel EA, Courtenay MD, Schwartz SG, Kovach JL, Scott WK, Liew G, Tan AG, Gopinath B, Merriam JC, Smith TR, Khan JC, Shahid H, Moore AT, McGrath AJ, Laux R, Brantley MA, Agarwal A, Ersoy L, Caramoy A, Langmann T, Saksens NTM, de Jong EK, Hoyng CB, Cain MS, Richardson AJ, Martin TM, Blangero J, Weeks DE, Dhillon B, van Duijn CM, Doheny KF, Romm J, Klaver CCW, Hayward C, Gorin MB, Klein ML, Baird PN, den Hollander AI, Fauser S, Yates JRW, Allikmets R, Wang JJ, Schaumberg DA, Klein BEK, Hagstrom SA, Chowers I, Lotery AJ, Léveillard T, Zhang K, Brilliant MH, Hewitt AW, Swaroop A, Chew EY, Pericak-Vance MA, DeAngelis M, Stambolian D, Haines JL, Iyengar SK, Weber BHF, Abecasis GR, Heid IM. A large genome-wide association study of age-related macular degeneration highlights contributions of rare and common variants. Nat Genet 2016;48(2):134-43.Abstract

Advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly, with limited therapeutic options. Here we report on a study of >12 million variants, including 163,714 directly genotyped, mostly rare, protein-altering variants. Analyzing 16,144 patients and 17,832 controls, we identify 52 independently associated common and rare variants (P < 5 × 10(-8)) distributed across 34 loci. Although wet and dry AMD subtypes exhibit predominantly shared genetics, we identify the first genetic association signal specific to wet AMD, near MMP9 (difference P value = 4.1 × 10(-10)). Very rare coding variants (frequency <0.1%) in CFH, CFI and TIMP3 suggest causal roles for these genes, as does a splice variant in SLC16A8. Our results support the hypothesis that rare coding variants can pinpoint causal genes within known genetic loci and illustrate that applying the approach systematically to detect new loci requires extremely large sample sizes.

Fu Z, Liegl R, Wang Z, Gong Y, Liu C-H, Sun Y, Cakir B, Burnim SB, Meng SS, Löfqvist C, SanGiovanni JP, Hellström A, Smith LEH. Adiponectin Mediates Dietary Omega-3 Long-Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acid Protection Against Choroidal Neovascularization in Mice. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2017;58(10):3862-3870.Abstract
Purpose: Neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of legal blindness in the elderly. Diets with omega3-long-chain-polyunsaturated-fatty-acid (ω3-LCPUFA) correlate with a decreased risk of AMD. Dietary ω3-LCPUFA versus ω6-LCPUFA inhibits mouse ocular neovascularization, but the underlying mechanism needs further exploration. The aim of this study was to investigate if adiponectin (APN) mediated ω3-LCPUFA suppression of neovessels in AMD. Methods: The mouse laser-induced choroidal neovascularization (CNV) model was used to mimic some of the inflammatory aspect of AMD. CNV was compared between wild-type (WT) and Apn-/- mice fed either otherwise matched diets with 2% ω3 or 2% ω6-LCPUFAs. Vldlr-/- mice were used to mimic some of the metabolic aspects of AMD. Choroid assay ex vivo and human retinal microvascular endothelial cell (HRMEC) proliferation assay in vitro was used to investigate the APN pathway in angiogenesis. Western blot for p-AMPKα/AMPKα and qPCR for Apn, Mmps, and IL-10 were used to define mechanism. Results: ω3-LCPUFA intake suppressed laser-induced CNV in WT mice; suppression was abolished with APN deficiency. ω3-LCPUFA, mediated by APN, decreased mouse Mmps expression. APN deficiency decreased AMPKα phosphorylation in vivo and exacerbated choroid-sprouting ex vivo. APN pathway activation inhibited HRMEC proliferation and decreased Mmps. In Vldlr-/- mice, ω3-LCPUFA increased retinal AdipoR1 and inhibited NV. ω3-LCPUFA decreased IL-10 but did not affect Mmps in Vldlr-/- retinas. Conclusions: APN in part mediated ω3-LCPUFA inhibition of neovascularization in two mouse models of AMD. Modulating the APN pathway in conjunction with a ω3-LCPUFA-enriched-diet may augment the beneficial effects of ω3-LCPUFA in AMD patients.
Fu Z, Lofqvist CA, Shao Z, Sun Y, Joyal J-S, Hurst CG, Cui RZ, Evans LP, Tian K, SanGiovanni JP, Chen J, Ley D, Hansen Pupp I, Hellstrom A, Smith LEH. Dietary ω-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids decrease retinal neovascularization by adipose-endoplasmic reticulum stress reduction to increase adiponectin. Am J Clin Nutr 2015;101(4):879-88.Abstract

BACKGROUND: Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a vision-threatening disease in premature infants. Serum adiponectin (APN) concentrations positively correlate with postnatal growth and gestational age, important risk factors for ROP development. Dietary ω-3 (n-3) long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (ω-3 LCPUFAs) suppress ROP and oxygen-induced retinopathy (OIR) in a mouse model of human ROP, but the mechanism is not fully understood. OBJECTIVE: We examined the role of APN in ROP development and whether circulating APN concentrations are increased by dietary ω-3 LCPUFAs to mediate the protective effect in ROP. DESIGN: Serum APN concentrations were correlated with ROP development and serum ω-3 LCPUFA concentrations in preterm infants. Mouse OIR was then used to determine whether ω-3 LCPUFA supplementation increases serum APN concentrations, which then suppress retinopathy. RESULTS: We found that in preterm infants, low serum APN concentrations positively correlate with ROP, and serum APN concentrations positively correlate with serum ω-3 LCPUFA concentrations. In mouse OIR, serum total APN and bioactive high-molecular-weight APN concentrations are increased by ω-3 LCPUFA feed. White adipose tissue, where APN is produced and assembled in the endoplasmic reticulum, is the major source of serum APN. In mouse OIR, adipose endoplasmic reticulum stress is increased, and APN production is suppressed. ω-3 LCPUFA feed in mice increases APN production by reducing adipose endoplasmic reticulum stress markers. Dietary ω-3 LCPUFA suppression of neovascularization is reduced from 70% to 10% with APN deficiency. APN receptors localize in the retina, particularly to pathologic neovessels. CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that increasing APN by ω-3 LCPUFA supplementation in total parental nutrition for preterm infants may suppress ROP.

Gnanaguru G, Mackey A, Choi EY, Arta A, Rossato FA, Gero TW, Urquhart AJ, Scott DA, D'Amore PA, Ng YSE. Discovery of sterically-hindered phenol compounds with potent cytoprotective activities against ox-LDL-induced retinal pigment epithelial cell death as a potential pharmacotherapy. Free Radic Biol Med 2022;178:360-368.Abstract
Late-stage dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) or geographic atrophy (GA) is an irreversible blinding condition characterized by degeneration of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the associated photoreceptors. Clinical and genetic evidence supports a role for dysfunctional lipid processing and accumulation of harmful oxidized lipids in the pathogenesis of GA. Using an oxidized low-density lipoprotein (ox-LDL)-induced RPE death assay, we screened and identified sterically-hindered phenol compounds with potent protective activities for RPE. The phenol-containing PPARγ agonist, troglitazone, protected against ox-LDL-induced RPE cell death, whereas other more potent PPARγ agonists did not protect RPE cells. Knockdown of PPARγ did not affect the protective activity of troglitazone in RPE, confirming the protective function is not due to the thiazolidine (TZD) group of troglitazone. Prototypical hindered phenol trolox and its analogs potently protected against ox-LDL-induced RPE cell death whereas potent antioxidants without the phenol group failed to protect RPE. Hindered phenols preserved lysosomal integrity against ox-LDL-induced damage and FITC-labeled trolox was localized to the lysosomes in RPE cells. Analogs of trolox inhibited reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation induced by ox-LDL uptake in a dose-dependent fashion and were effective at sub-micromolar concentrations. Treatment with trolox analog 2,2,5,7,8-pentamethyl-6-chromanol (PMC) significantly induced the expression of the lysosomal protein NPC-1 and reduced intracellular cholesterol level upon ox-LDL uptake. Our data indicate that the lysosomal-localized hindered phenols are uniquely potent in protecting the RPE against the toxic effects of ox-LDL, and may represent a novel pharmacotherapy to preserve the vision in patients with GA.
Gnanaguru G, Choi AR, Amarnani D, D'Amore PA. Oxidized Lipoprotein Uptake Through the CD36 Receptor Activates the NLRP3 Inflammasome in Human Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2016;57(11):4704-12.Abstract

PURPOSE: Accumulation of oxidized phospholipids/lipoproteins with age is suggested to contribute to the pathogenesis of AMD. We investigated the effect of oxidized LDL (ox-LDL) on human RPE cells. METHODS: Primary human fetal RPE (hf-RPE) and ARPE-19 cells were treated with different doses of LDL or ox-LDL. Assessment of cell death was measured by lactate dehydrogenase release into the conditioned media. Barrier function of RPE was assayed by measuring transepithelial resistance. Lysosomal accumulation of ox-LDL was determined by immunostaining. Expression of CD36 was determined by RT-PCR; protein blot and function was examined by receptor blocking. NLRP3 inflammasome activation was assessed by RT-PCR, protein blot, caspase-1 fluorescent probe assay, and inhibitor assays. RESULTS: Treatment with ox-LDL, but not LDL, for 48 hours caused significant increase in hf-RPE and ARPE-19 (P < 0.001) cell death. Oxidized LDL treatment of hf-RPE cells resulted in a significant decrease in transepithelial resistance (P < 0.001 at 24 hours and P < 0.01 at 48 hours) relative to LDL-treated and control cells. Internalized ox-LDL was targeted to RPE lysosomes. Uptake of ox-LDL but not LDL significantly increased CD36 protein and mRNA levels by more than 2-fold. Reverse transcription PCR, protein blot, and caspase-1 fluorescent probe assay revealed that ox-LDL treatment induced NLRP3 inflammasome when compared with LDL treatment and control. Inhibition of NLRP3 activation using 10 μM isoliquiritigenin significantly (P < 0.001) inhibited ox-LDL induced cytotoxicity. CONCLUSIONS: These data are consistent with the concept that ox-LDL play a role in the pathogenesis of AMD by NLRP3 inflammasome activation. Suppression of NLRP3 inflammasome activation could attenuate RPE degeneration and AMD progression.

Gnanaguru G, Wagschal A, Oh J, Saez-Torres KL, Li T, Temel RE, Kleinman ME, Näär AM, D'Amore PA. Targeting of miR-33 ameliorates phenotypes linked to age-related macular degeneration. Mol Ther 2021;29(7):2281-2293.Abstract
Abnormal cholesterol/lipid homeostasis is linked to neurodegenerative conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is a leading cause of blindness in the elderly. The most prevalent form, termed "dry" AMD, is characterized by pathological cholesterol accumulation beneath the retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cell layer and inflammation-linked degeneration in the retina. We show here that the cholesterol-regulating microRNA miR-33 was elevated in the RPE of aging mice. Expression of the miR-33 target ATP-binding cassette transporter (ABCA1), a cholesterol efflux pump genetically linked to AMD, declined reciprocally in the RPE with age. In accord, miR-33 modulated ABCA1 expression and cholesterol efflux in human RPE cells. Subcutaneous delivery of miR-33 antisense oligonucleotides (ASO) to aging mice and non-human primates fed a Western-type high fat/cholesterol diet resulted in increased ABCA1 expression, decreased cholesterol accumulation, and reduced immune cell infiltration in the RPE cell layer, accompanied by decreased pathological changes to RPE morphology. These findings suggest that miR-33 targeting may decrease cholesterol deposition and ameliorate AMD initiation and progression.
Gong D, Kras A, Miller JB. Application of Deep Learning for Diagnosing, Classifying, and Treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Semin Ophthalmol 2021;36(4):198-204.Abstract
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects nearly 200 million people and is the third leading cause of irreversible vision loss worldwide. Deep learning, a branch of artificial intelligence that can learn image recognition based on pre-existing datasets, creates an opportunity for more accurate and efficient diagnosis, classification, and treatment of AMD on both individual and population levels. Current algorithms based on fundus photography and optical coherence tomography imaging have already achieved diagnostic accuracy levels comparable to human graders. This accuracy can be further increased when deep learning algorithms are simultaneously applied to multiple diagnostic imaging modalities. Combined with advances in telemedicine and imaging technology, deep learning can enable large populations of patients to be screened than would otherwise be possible and allow ophthalmologists to focus on seeing those patients who are in need of treatment, thus reducing the number of patients with significant visual impairment from AMD.
Gong Y, Li J, Sun Y, Fu Z, Liu C-H, Evans L, Tian K, Saba N, Fredrick T, Morss P, Chen J, Smith LEH. Optimization of an Image-Guided Laser-Induced Choroidal Neovascularization Model in Mice. PLoS One 2015;10(7):e0132643.Abstract

The mouse model of laser-induced choroidal neovascularization (CNV) has been used in studies of the exudative form of age-related macular degeneration using both the conventional slit lamp and a new image-guided laser system. A standardized protocol is needed for consistent results using this model, which has been lacking. We optimized details of laser-induced CNV using the image-guided laser photocoagulation system. Four lesions with similar size were consistently applied per eye at approximately double the disc diameter away from the optic nerve, using different laser power levels, and mice of various ages and genders. After 7 days, the mice were sacrificed and retinal pigment epithelium/choroid/sclera was flat-mounted, stained with Isolectin B4, and imaged. Quantification of the area of the laser-induced lesions was performed using an established and constant threshold. Exclusion criteria are described that were necessary for reliable data analysis of the laser-induced CNV lesions. The CNV lesion area was proportional to the laser power levels. Mice at 12-16 weeks of age developed more severe CNV than those at 6-8 weeks of age, and the gender difference was only significant in mice at 12-16 weeks of age, but not in those at 6-8 weeks of age. Dietary intake of omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid reduced laser-induced CNV in mice. Taken together, laser-induced CNV lesions can be easily and consistently applied using the image-guided laser platform. Mice at 6-8 weeks of age are ideal for the laser-induced CNV model.

Gong Y, Tomita Y, Edin ML, Ren A, Ko M, Yang J, Bull E, Zeldin DC, Hellström A, Fu Z, Smith LEH. Cytochrome P450 oxidase 2J inhibition suppresses choroidal neovascularization in mice. Metabolism 2022;134:155266.Abstract
INTRODUCTION: Choroidal neovascularization (CNV) in age-related macular degeneration (AMD) leads to blindness. It has been widely reported that increased intake of ω-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFA) diets reduce CNV. Of the three major pathways metabolizing ω-3 (and ω-6 LCPUFA), the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways generally produce pro-angiogenic metabolites from ω-6 LCPUFA and anti-angiogenic ones from ω-3 LCPUFA. Howevehr, cytochrome P450 oxidase (CPY) 2C produces pro-angiogenic metabolites from both ω-6 and ω-3 LCPUFA. The effects of CYP2J2 products on ocular neovascularization are still unknown. Understanding how each metabolic pathway affects the protective effect of ω-3 LCPUFA on retinal neovascularization may lead to therapeutic interventions. OBJECTIVES: To investigate the effects of LCPUFA metabolites through CYP2J2 pathway and CYP2J2 regulation on CNV both in vivo and ex vivo. METHODS: The impact of CYP2J2 overexpression and inhibition on neovascularization in the laser-induced CNV mouse model was assessed. The plasma levels of CYP2J2 metabolites were measured by liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectroscopy. The choroidal explant sprouting assay was used to investigate the effects of CYP2J2 inhibition and specific LCPUFA CYP2J2 metabolites on angiogenesis ex vivo. RESULTS: CNV was exacerbated in Tie2-Cre CYP2J2-overexpressing mice and was associated with increased levels of plasma docosahexaenoic acids. Inhibiting CYP2J2 activity with flunarizine decreased CNV in both ω-6 and ω-3 LCPUFA-fed wild-type mice. In Tie2-Cre CYP2J2-overexpressing mice, flunarizine suppressed CNV by 33 % and 36 % in ω-6, ω-3 LCPUFA diets, respectively, and reduced plasma levels of CYP2J2 metabolites. The pro-angiogenic role of CYP2J2 was corroborated in the choroidal explant sprouting assay. Flunarizine attenuated ex vivo choroidal sprouting, and 19,20-EDP, a ω-3 LCPUFA CYP2J2 metabolite, increased sprouting. The combined inhibition of CYP2J2 with flunarizine and CYP2C8 with montelukast further enhanced CNV suppression via tumor necrosis factor-α suppression. CONCLUSIONS: CYP2J2 inhibition augmented the inhibitory effect of ω-3 LCPUFA on CNV. Flunarizine suppressed pathological choroidal angiogenesis, and co-treatment with montelukast inhibiting CYP2C8 further enhanced the effect. CYP2 inhibition might be a viable approach to suppress CNV in AMD.
Gonzalez-Buendia L, Delgado-Tirado S, An M, O'Hare M, Amarnani D, Whitmore HAB, Zhao G, Ruiz-Moreno JM, Arboleda-Velasquez JF, Kim LA. Treatment of Experimental Choroidal Neovascularization via RUNX1 Inhibition. Am J Pathol 2021;191(3):418-424.Abstract
Choroidal neovascularization (CNV) is a prevalent cause of vision loss in patients with age-related macular degeneration. Runt-related transcription factor 1 (RUNX1) has been identified as an important mediator of aberrant retinal angiogenesis in proliferative diabetic retinopathy and its modulation has proven to be effective in curbing pathologic angiogenesis in experimental oxygen-induced retinopathy. However, its role in CNV remains to be elucidated. This study demonstrates RUNX1 expression in critical cell types involved in a laser-induced model of CNV in mice. Furthermore, the preclinical efficacy of Ro5-3335, a small molecule inhibitor of RUNX1, in experimental CNV is reported. RUNX1 inhibitor Ro5-3335, aflibercept-an FDA-approved vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitor, or a combination of both, were administered by intravitreal injection immediately after laser injury. The CNV area of choroidal flatmounts was evaluated by immunostaining with isolectin B4, and vascular permeability was analyzed by fluorescein angiography. A single intravitreal injection of Ro5-3335 significantly decreased the CNV area 7 days after laser injury, and when combined with aflibercept, reduced vascular leakage more effectively than aflibercept alone. These data suggest that RUNX1 inhibition alone or in combination with anti-VEGF drugs may be a new therapy upon further clinical validation for patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration.
H A-K, NA P, NA Y, J L, WE S. Cost Analysis: Port Delivery System vs Monthly Ranibizumab for wet AMD Treatment. Ophthalmol Retina 2022;
Hagstrom SA, Ying G-S, Pauer GJT, Sturgill-Short GM, Huang J, Callanan DG, Kim IK, Klein ML, Maguire MG, Martin DF, of Group CAMDTTR. Pharmacogenetics for genes associated with age-related macular degeneration in the Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials (CATT). Ophthalmology 2013;120(3):593-599.Abstract
PURPOSE: To evaluate the pharmacogenetic relationship between genotypes of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) known to be associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and response to treatment with ranibizumab (Lucentis; Genentech, South San Francisco, CA) or bevacizumab (Avastin; Genentech) for neovascular AMD. DESIGN: Clinical trial. PARTICIPANTS: Eight hundred thirty-four (73%) of 1149 patients participating in the Comparison of AMD Treatments Trials (CATT) were recruited through 43 CATT clinical centers. METHODS: Each patient was genotyped for SNPs rs1061170 (CFH), rs10490924 (ARMS2), rs11200638 (HTRA1), and rs2230199 (C3), using TaqMan SNP genotyping assays (Applied Biosystems, Foster City, CA). MAIN OUTCOMES MEASURES: Genotypic frequencies were compared with clinical measures of response to therapy at one year, including mean visual acuity (VA), mean change in VA, 15-letter or more increase in VA, retinal thickness, mean change in total foveal thickness, presence of fluid on OCT, presence of leakage on fluorescein angiography (FA), mean change in lesion size, and mean number of injections administered. Differences in response by genotype were evaluated with tests of linear trend calculated from logistic regression models for categorical outcomes and linear regression models for continuous outcomes. To adjust for multiple comparisons, P≤0.01 was considered statistically significant. RESULTS: No statistically significant differences in response by genotype were identified for any of the clinical measures studied. Specifically, there were no high-risk alleles that predicted final VA or change in VA, the degree of anatomic response (fluid on OCT or FA, retinal thickness, change in total foveal thickness, change in lesion size), or the number of injections. Furthermore, a stepwise analysis failed to show a significant epistatic interaction among the variants analyzed; that is, response did not vary by the number of risk alleles present. The lack of association was similar whether patients were treated with ranibizumab or bevacizumab or whether they received monthly or pro re nata dosing. CONCLUSIONS: Although specific alleles for CFH, ARMS2, HTRA1, and C3 may predict the development of AMD, they did not predict response to anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy.
Handa JT, Bowes Rickman C, Dick AD, Gorin MB, Miller JW, Toth CA, Ueffing M, Zarbin M, Farrer LA. A systems biology approach towards understanding and treating non-neovascular age-related macular degeneration. Nat Commun 2019;10(1):3347.Abstract
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of blindness among the elderly in the developed world. While treatment is effective for the neovascular or "wet" form of AMD, no therapy is successful for the non-neovascular or "dry" form. Here we discuss the current knowledge on dry AMD pathobiology and propose future research directions that would expedite the development of new treatments. In our view, these should emphasize system biology approaches that integrate omic, pharmacological, and clinical data into mathematical models that can predict disease onset and progression, identify biomarkers, establish disease causing mechanisms, and monitor response to therapy.
Hasegawa E, Sweigard H, Husain D, Olivares AM, Chang B, Smith KE, Birsner AE, D'Amato RJ, Michaud NA, Han Y, Vavvas DG, Miller JW, Haider NB, Connor KM. Characterization of a spontaneous retinal neovascular mouse model. PLoS One 2014;9(9):e106507.Abstract

BACKGROUND: Vision loss due to vascular disease of the retina is a leading cause of blindness in the world. Retinal angiomatous proliferation (RAP) is a subgroup of neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD), whereby abnormal blood vessels develop in the retina leading to debilitating vision loss and eventual blindness. The novel mouse strain, neoretinal vascularization 2 (NRV2), shows spontaneous fundus changes associated with abnormal neovascularization. The purpose of this study is to characterize the induction of pathologic angiogenesis in this mouse model. METHODS: The NRV2 mice were examined from postnatal day 12 (p12) to 3 months. The phenotypic changes within the retina were evaluated by fundus photography, fluorescein angiography, optical coherence tomography, and immunohistochemical and electron microscopic analysis. The pathological neovascularization was imaged by confocal microscopy and reconstructed using three-dimensional image analysis software. RESULTS: We found that NRV2 mice develop multifocal retinal depigmentation in the posterior fundus. Depigmented lesions developed vascular leakage observed by fluorescein angiography. The spontaneous angiogenesis arose from the retinal vascular plexus at postnatal day (p)15 and extended toward retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). By three months of age, histological analysis revealed encapsulation of the neovascular lesion by the RPE in the photoreceptor cell layer and subretinal space. CONCLUSIONS: The NRV2 mouse strain develops early neovascular lesions within the retina, which grow downward towards the RPE beginning at p15. This retinal neovascularization model mimics early stages of human retinal angiomatous proliferation (RAP) and will likely be a useful in elucidating targeted therapeutics for patients with ocular neovascular disease.

Hasegawa E, Inafuku S, Mulki L, Okunuki Y, Yanai R, Smith KE, Kim CB, Klokman G, Bielenberg DR, Puli N, Falck JR, Husain D, Miller JW, Edin ML, Zeldin DC, Stephen Lee KS, Hammock BD, Schunck W-H, Connor KM. Cytochrome P450 monooxygenase lipid metabolites are significant second messengers in the resolution of choroidal neovascularization. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2017;114(36):E7545-E7553.Abstract
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of blindness for individuals age 50 and above in the developed world. Abnormal growth of choroidal blood vessels, or choroidal neovascularization (CNV), is a hallmark of the neovascular (wet) form of advanced AMD and leads to significant vision loss. A growing body of evidence supports a strong link between neovascular disease and inflammation. Metabolites of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids derived from the cytochrome P450 (CYP) monooxygenase pathway serve as vital second messengers that regulate a number of hormones and growth factors involved in inflammation and vascular function. Using transgenic mice with altered CYP lipid biosynthetic pathways in a mouse model of laser-induced CNV, we characterized the role of these lipid metabolites in regulating neovascular disease. We discovered that the CYP-derived lipid metabolites epoxydocosapentaenoic acids (EDPs) and epoxyeicosatetraenoic acids (EEQs) are vital in dampening CNV severity. Specifically, overexpression of the monooxygenase CYP2C8 or genetic ablation or inhibition of the soluble epoxide hydrolase (sEH) enzyme led to increased levels of EDP and EEQ with attenuated CNV development. In contrast, when we promoted the degradation of these CYP-derived metabolites by transgenic overexpression of sEH, the protective effect against CNV was lost. We found that these molecules work in part through their ability to regulate the expression of key leukocyte adhesion molecules, on both leukocytes and endothelial cells, thereby mediating leukocyte recruitment. These results suggest that CYP lipid signaling molecules and their regulators are potential therapeutic targets in neovascular diseases.
Heckel E, Cagnone G, Agnihotri T, Cakir B, Das A, Kim JS, Kim N, Lavoie G, Situ A, Pundir S, Sun Y, Wünnemann F, Pierce KA, Dennis C, Mitchell GA, Chemtob S, Rezende FA, Andelfinger G, Clish CB, Roux PP, Sapieha P, Smith LEH, Joyal J-S. Triglyceride-derived fatty acids reduce autophagy in a model of retinal angiomatous proliferation. JCI Insight 2022;7(6)Abstract
Dyslipidemia and autophagy have been implicated in the pathogenesis of blinding neovascular age-related macular degeneration (NV-AMD). VLDL receptor (VLDLR), expressed in photoreceptors with a high metabolic rate, facilitates the uptake of triglyceride-derived fatty acids. Since fatty acid uptake is reduced in Vldlr-/- tissues, more remain in circulation, and the retina is fuel deficient, driving the formation in mice of neovascular lesions reminiscent of retinal angiomatous proliferation (RAP), a subtype of NV-AMD. Nutrient scarcity and energy failure are classically mitigated by increasing autophagy. We found that excess circulating lipids restrained retinal autophagy, which contributed to pathological angiogenesis in the Vldlr-/- RAP model. Triglyceride-derived fatty acid sensed by free fatty acid receptor 1 (FFAR1) restricted autophagy and oxidative metabolism in photoreceptors. FFAR1 suppressed transcription factor EB (TFEB), a master regulator of autophagy and lipid metabolism. Reduced TFEB, in turn, decreased sirtuin-3 expression and mitochondrial respiration. Metabolomic signatures of mouse RAP-like retinas were consistent with a role in promoting angiogenesis. This signature was also found in human NV-AMD vitreous. Restoring photoreceptor autophagy in Vldlr-/- retinas, either pharmacologically or by deleting Ffar1, enhanced metabolic efficiency and suppressed pathological angiogenesis. Dysregulated autophagy by circulating lipids might therefore contribute to the energy failure of photoreceptors driving neovascular eye diseases, and FFAR1 may be a target for intervention.
Hibert ML, Chen Y, Ohringer N, Feuer WJ, Waheed NK, Heier JS, Calhoun MW, Rosenfeld PJ, Polimeni JR. Altered Blood Flow in the Ophthalmic and Internal Carotid Arteries in Patients with Age-Related Macular Degeneration Measured Using Noncontrast MR Angiography at 7T. AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 2021;Abstract
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Age-related macular degeneration is associated with reduced perfusion of the eye; however, the role of altered blood flow in the upstream ophthalmic or internal carotid arteries is unclear. We used ultra-high-field MR imaging to investigate whether the diameter of and blood flow in the ophthalmic artery and/or the ICA are altered in age-related macular degeneration and whether any blood flow changes are associated with disease progression. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Twenty-four patients with age-related macular degeneration and 13 similarly-aged healthy controls participated. TOF and high-resolution dynamic 2D phase-contrast MRA (0.26 × 0.26 × 2mm3, 100-ms effective sampling rate) was acquired at 7T. Vessel diameters were calculated from cross-sectional areas in phase-contrast acquisitions. Blood flow time-series were measured across the cardiac cycle. RESULTS: The ophthalmic artery vessel diameter was found to be significantly smaller in patients with age-related macular degeneration than in controls. Volumetric flow through the ophthalmic artery was significantly lower in patients with late age-related macular degeneration, with a significant trend of decreasing volumetric ophthalmic artery flow rates with increasing disease severity. The resistance index was significantly greater in patients with age-related macular degeneration than in controls in the ophthalmic artery. Flow velocity through the ophthalmic artery and ICA was significantly higher in patients with age-related macular degeneration. Ophthalmic artery blood flow as a percentage of ipsilateral ICA blood flow was nearly double in controls than in patients with age-related macular degeneration. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the hypothesis that vascular changes upstream to the eye are associated with the severity of age-related macular degeneration. Additional investigation into the potential causality of this relationship and whether treatments that improve ocular circulation slow disease progression is warranted.
Huang S, Liu C-H, Wang Z, Fu Z, Britton WR, Blomfield AK, Kamenecka TM, Dunaief JL, Solt LA, Chen J. REV-ERBα regulates age-related and oxidative stress-induced degeneration in retinal pigment epithelium via NRF2. Redox Biol 2022;51:102261.Abstract
Retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) dysfunction and atrophy occur in dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), often leading to photoreceptor degeneration and vision loss. Accumulated oxidative stress during aging contributes to RPE dysfunction and degeneration. Here we show that the nuclear receptor REV-ERBα, a redox sensitive transcription factor, protects RPE from age-related degeneration and oxidative stress-induced damage. Genetic deficiency of REV-ERBα leads to accumulated oxidative stress, dysfunction and degeneration of RPE, and AMD-like ocular pathologies in aging mice. Loss of REV-ERBα exacerbates chemical-induced RPE damage, and pharmacological activation of REV-ERBα protects RPE from oxidative damage both in vivo and in vitro. REV-ERBα directly regulates transcription of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) and its downstream antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) and catalase to counter oxidative damage. Moreover, aged mice with RPE specific knockout of REV-ERBα also exhibit accumulated oxidative stress and fundus and RPE pathologies. Together, our results suggest that REV-ERBα is a novel intrinsic protector of the RPE against age-dependent oxidative stress and a new molecular target for developing potential therapies to treat age-related retinal degeneration.