Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Publications

Winkler TW, Grassmann F, Brandl C, Kiel C, Günther F, Strunz T, Weidner L, Zimmermann ME, Korb CA, Poplawski A, Schuster AK, Müller-Nurasyid M, Peters A, Rauscher FG, Elze T, Horn K, Scholz M, Cañadas-Garre M, McKnight AJ, Quinn N, Hogg RE, Küchenhoff H, Heid IM, Stark KJ, Weber BHF. Genome-wide association meta-analysis for early age-related macular degeneration highlights novel loci and insights for advanced disease. BMC Med Genomics 2020;13(1):120.Abstract
BACKGROUND: Advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of blindness. While around half of the genetic contribution to advanced AMD has been uncovered, little is known about the genetic architecture of early AMD. METHODS: To identify genetic factors for early AMD, we conducted a genome-wide association study (GWAS) meta-analysis (14,034 cases, 91,214 controls, 11 sources of data including the International AMD Genomics Consortium, IAMDGC, and UK Biobank, UKBB). We ascertained early AMD via color fundus photographs by manual grading for 10 sources and via an automated machine learning approach for > 170,000 photographs from UKBB. We searched for early AMD loci via GWAS and via a candidate approach based on 14 previously suggested early AMD variants. RESULTS: Altogether, we identified 10 independent loci with statistical significance for early AMD: (i) 8 from our GWAS with genome-wide significance (P < 5 × 10), (ii) one previously suggested locus with experiment-wise significance (P < 0.05/14) in our non-overlapping data and with genome-wide significance when combining the reported and our non-overlapping data (together 17,539 cases, 105,395 controls), and (iii) one further previously suggested locus with experiment-wise significance in our non-overlapping data. Of these 10 identified loci, 8 were novel and 2 known for early AMD. Most of the 10 loci overlapped with known advanced AMD loci (near ARMS2/HTRA1, CFH, C2, C3, CETP, TNFRSF10A, VEGFA, APOE), except two that have not yet been identified with statistical significance for any AMD. Among the 17 genes within these two loci, in-silico functional annotation suggested CD46 and TYR as the most likely responsible genes. Presence or absence of an early AMD effect distinguished the known pathways of advanced AMD genetics (complement/lipid pathways versus extracellular matrix metabolism). CONCLUSIONS: Our GWAS on early AMD identified novel loci, highlighted shared and distinct genetics between early and advanced AMD and provides insights into AMD etiology. Our data provide a resource comparable in size to the existing IAMDGC data on advanced AMD genetics enabling a joint view. The biological relevance of this joint view is underscored by the ability of early AMD effects to differentiate the major pathways for advanced AMD.
Ibrahim AS, Hussein K, Wang F, Wan M, Saad N, Essa M, Kim I, Shakoor A, Owen LA, Deangelis MM, Al-Shabrawey M. Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP)4 But Not BMP2 Disrupts the Barrier Integrity of Retinal Pigment Epithelia and Induces Their Migration: A Potential Role in Neovascular Age-Related Macular Degeneration. J Clin Med 2020;9(7)Abstract
Disruption of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) barrier integrity and RPE migration are hallmark features in neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD), but the underlying causes and pathophysiology are not completely well-defined. Herein, we aimed to evaluate the effect of bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) on the barrier function and migration of RPE. In particular, we investigated the role of BMP2 and BMP4 in these processes as our analysis of RNA-sequencing (seq) data from human donor eyes demonstrated that they are highly differentially expressed BMP members in macular RPE/choroid versus macular retina. We used electrical cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS) system to monitor precisely in real time the barrier integrity and migration of ARPE-19 after treatment with various concentrations of BMP2 or BMP4. Immunofluorescence was also used to assess the changes in the expression and the organization of the key tight junction protein, zona occludens (ZO)-1, in ARPE-19 cells under BMP2 or BMP4 treatment. This was followed by measuring the activity of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Finally, RNA-seq and ELISA were used to determine the local and circulating levels of BMP2 and BMP4 in retinas and serum samples from nAMD donors. Our ECIS results showed that BMP4 but not BMP2 decreased the transcellular electrical resistance (TER) of ARPE-19 and increased their migration in comparison with control (vehicle-treated cells). Furthermore, immunofluorescence showed a disorganization of ZO-1 in BMP4-treated ARPE-19 not in BMP2-treated cells or vehicle-treated controls. This effect of BMP4 was associated with significant increases in the activity of MMPs, specifically MMP2. Lastly, these results were corroborated by additional findings that circulating but not local BMP4 levels were significantly higher in nAMD donor samples compared to controls. Collectively, our results demonstrated unreported effects of BMP4 on inducing RPE dysfunction and suggest that BMP4 but not BMP2 may represent a potential therapeutic target in nAMD.
Shu DY, Butcher E, Saint-Geniez M. EMT and EndMT: Emerging Roles in Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Int J Mol Sci 2020;21(12)Abstract
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EndMT) are physiological processes required for normal embryogenesis. However, these processes can be hijacked in pathological conditions to facilitate tissue fibrosis and cancer metastasis. In the eye, EMT and EndMT play key roles in the pathogenesis of subretinal fibrosis, the end-stage of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) that leads to profound and permanent vision loss. Predominant in subretinal fibrotic lesions are matrix-producing mesenchymal cells believed to originate from the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and/or choroidal endothelial cells (CECs) through EMT and EndMT, respectively. Recent evidence suggests that EMT of RPE may also be implicated during the early stages of AMD. Transforming growth factor-beta (TGFβ) is a key cytokine orchestrating both EMT and EndMT. Investigations in the molecular mechanisms underpinning EMT and EndMT in AMD have implicated a myriad of contributing factors including signaling pathways, extracellular matrix remodelling, oxidative stress, inflammation, autophagy, metabolism and mitochondrial dysfunction. Questions arise as to differences in the mesenchymal cells derived from these two processes and their distinct mechanistic contributions to the pathogenesis of AMD. Detailed discussion on the AMD microenvironment highlights the synergistic interactions between RPE and CECs that may augment the EMT and EndMT processes in vivo. Understanding the differential regulatory networks of EMT and EndMT and their contributions to both the dry and wet forms of AMD can aid the development of therapeutic strategies targeting both RPE and CECs to potentially reverse the aberrant cellular transdifferentiation processes, regenerate the retina and thus restore vision.
Hughes S, Gumas J, Lee R, Rumano M, Berger N, Gautam AK, Sfyroera G, Chan AL, Gnanaguru G, Connor KM, Kim BJ, Dunaief JL, Ricklin D, Hajishengallis G, Yancopoulou D, Reis ES, Mastellos DC, Lambris JD. Prolonged intraocular residence and retinal tissue distribution of a fourth-generation compstatin-based C3 inhibitor in non-human primates. Clin Immunol 2020;214:108391.Abstract
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss among the elderly population. Genetic studies in susceptible individuals have linked this ocular disease to deregulated complement activity that culminates in increased C3 turnover, retinal inflammation and photoreceptor loss. Therapeutic targeting of C3 has therefore emerged as a promising strategy for broadly intercepting the detrimental proinflammatory consequences of complement activation in the retinal tissue. In this regard, a PEGylated second-generation derivative of the compstatin family of C3-targeted inhibitors is currently in late-stage clinical development as a treatment option for geographic atrophy, an advanced form of AMD which lacks approved therapy. While efficacy has been strongly suggested in phase 2 clinical trials, crucial aspects still remain to be defined with regard to the ocular bioavailability, tissue distribution and residence, and dosing frequency of such inhibitors in AMD patients. Here we report the intraocular distribution and pharmacokinetic profile of the fourth-generation compstatin analog, Cp40-KKK in cynomolgus monkeys following a single intravitreal injection. Using a sensitive surface plasmon resonance (SPR)-based competition assay and ELISA, we have quantified both the amount of inhibitor and the concentration of C3 retained in the vitreous of Cp40-KKK-injected animals. Cp40-KKK displays prolonged intraocular residence, being detected at C3-saturating levels for over 3 months after a single intravitreal injection. Moreover, we have probed the distribution of Cp40-KKK within the ocular tissue by means of immunohistochemistry and highly specific anti-Cp40-KKK antibodies. Both C3 and Cp40-KKK were detected in the retinal tissue of inhibitor-injected animals, with prominent co-localization in the choroid one-month post intravitreal injection. These results attest to the high retinal tissue penetrance and target-driven distribution of Cp40-KKK. Given its subnanomolar binding affinity and prolonged ocular residence, Cp40-KKK constitutes a promising drug candidate for ocular pathologies underpinned by deregulated C3 activation.
Farinha C, Cachulo ML, Coimbra R, Alves D, Nunes S, Pires I, Marques JP, Costa J, Martins A, Sobral I, Barreto P, Laíns I, Figueira J, Ribeiro L, Cunha-Vaz J, Silva R. Age-Related Macular Degeneration Staging by Color Fundus Photography vs. Multimodal Imaging-Epidemiological Implications (). J Clin Med 2020;9(5)Abstract
Epidemiology of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is based on staging systems relying on color fundus photography (CFP). We aim to compare AMD staging using CFP to multimodal imaging with optical coherence tomography (OCT), infra-red (IR), and fundus autofluorescence (FAF), in a large cohort from the Epidemiologic AMD Coimbra Eye Study. All imaging exams from the participants of this population-based study were classified by a central reading center. CFP images were graded according to the International Classification and Grading System for AMD and staged with Rotterdam classification. Afterward, CFP images were reviewed with OCT, IR, and FAF and stage update was performed if necessary. Early and late AMD prevalence was compared in a total of 1616 included subjects. In CFP-based grading, the prevalence was 14.11% for early AMD ( = 228) and 1.05% ( = 17) for late AMD, nine cases (0.56%) had neovascular AMD (nAMD) and eight (0.50%) geographic atrophy (GA). Using multimodal grading, the prevalence increased to 14.60% for early AMD ( = 236) and 1.61% ( = 26) for late AMD, with 14 cases (0.87%) of nAMD and 12 (0.74%) of GA. AMD staging was more accurate with the multimodal approach and this was especially relevant for late AMD. We propose that multimodal imaging should be adopted in the future to better estimate and compare epidemiological data in different populations.
Papadopoulos Z. Neovascular age-related macular degeneration and its association with Alzheimer's disease. Curr Aging Sci 2020;Abstract
In developed countries, people of advanced age go permanently blind most often due to age-related macular degeneration, while at global level, this disease is the third major cause of blindness, after cataract and glaucoma, according to the World Health Organisation. The number of individuals believed to suffer from the disease throughout the world has been approximated at 50 million. Age-related macular degeneration is classified as non-neovascular (dry, non-exudative) and neovascular (wet, exudative). The exudative form is less common than the non-exudative as it accounts for approximately 10 percent of the cases of the disease. However, it can be much more aggressive and results in a rapid and severe loss of central vision. Similarly with age-related macular degeneration, Alzheimer's disease is a late-onset, neurodegenerative disease affecting millions of people worldwide. Both of them are associated with age and share several features, including the presence of extracellular abnormal deposits associated with neuronal degeneration, drusen, and plaques, respectively. The present review article highlights the pathogenesis, the clinical features and the imaging modalities used for the diagnosis of neovascular age-related macular degeneration. A thorough overview of the effectiveness of anti-VEGF agents as well as of other treatment modalities that have either lost favour or are rarely used is provided in detail. Additionally, the common histologic, immunologic, and pathogenetic features of Alzheimer's disease and age-related macular degeneration are discussed in depth.
Rodriguez JD, Wallstrom G, Narayanan D, Welch D, Abelson MB. An Alternative Psychophysical Diagnostic Indicator of the Aging Eye. J Ophthalmol 2019;2019:2036192.Abstract
Purpose: Impaired adaptation to changes in lighting levels as well as mesopic visual function is a common complaint in those over the age of 65. The use of photostress is a well-established method to test the adaption rate and the response of the visual cycle. In this study, we test visual function recovery to mesopic luminance stimuli following a long duration photostress in young and elderly subjects. If successful in strongly differentiating aging macular function, these methods may also be useful in the study of pathologies such as age-related macular degeneration. Methods: A group of 12 older normal subjects (mean age 75.1 ± 4.79) and a control group of 5 younger normal subjects (mean age 26.2 ± 4.19) were subjected to macular photostress using the OraLux photostress system. The OraLux system provides a diffuse light source bleaching 84% of cone photopigment while maintaining an exposure safety factor of 200 times less than the maximum safe exposure. After each photostressing session, macular recovery was tracked using a foveal, variable contrast, flickering stimulus of mean luminance in the high mesopic range. Recovery was tracked for 300 seconds. The endpoint was time to recovery to each individual's baseline sensitivity as determined by two static sensitivity trials prior to photostress. Results: Proportional hazards analysis of recovery time yielded a statistically significant difference between the older group and the young group (HR = 0.181; =0.0289). The estimated hazard ratio of 0.181 indicates that older subjects return to baseline at less than one-fifth the rate of younger subjects. The hazards ratio remained statistically significant after adjusting for visual acuity (HR = 0.093; =0.0424). Conclusion: Photostress recovery of flicker sensitivity under mesopic conditions is a strong differentiator of aging macular function. This agrees with subject-reported complaints in reduced luminance conditions after exposure to bright lights such as night driving. The qualitative similarity between the aging retina and changes in early AMD suggests that flicker recovery following photostress may be useful as a surrogate endpoint in AMD clinical trials.
Menon M, Mohammadi S, Davila-Velderrain J, Goods BA, Cadwell TD, Xing Y, Stemmer-Rachamimov A, Shalek AK, Love JC, Kellis M, Hafler BP. Single-cell transcriptomic atlas of the human retina identifies cell types associated with age-related macular degeneration. Nat Commun 2019;10(1):4902.Abstract
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified genetic variants associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of blindness in the elderly. However, it has been challenging to identify the cell types associated with AMD given the genetic complexity of the disease. Here we perform massively parallel single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) of human retinas using two independent platforms, and report the first single-cell transcriptomic atlas of the human retina. Using a multi-resolution network-based analysis, we identify all major retinal cell types, and their corresponding gene expression signatures. Heterogeneity is observed within macroglia, suggesting that human retinal glia are more diverse than previously thought. Finally, GWAS-based enrichment analysis identifies glia, vascular cells, and cone photoreceptors to be associated with the risk of AMD. These data provide a detailed analysis of the human retina, and show how scRNA-seq can provide insight into cell types involved in complex, inflammatory genetic diseases.
Miller JW. Developing Therapies for Age-related Macular Degeneration: The Art and Science of Problem-solving: The 2018 Charles L. Schepens, MD, Lecture. Ophthalmol Retina 2019;3(10):900-909.Abstract
PURPOSE: To review the roles of analytic and innovative thought in advancing knowledge, using past examples in ophthalmology, and to explore potential strategies to improve our understanding of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and develop new therapies. DESIGN: Presented as the 2018 Charles L. Schepens, MD, Lecture at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Retina Subspecialty Day, Chicago, Illinois, on October 26, 2018. PARTICIPANTS: None. METHODS: Review of published literature and sources on creativity and innovation. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Recommendations for future AMD research. RESULTS: Innovative solutions to problems often seem intuitively obvious in hindsight. Yet, some problems seem impossible to solve. In the 1990s, AMD was a significant unmet need, with only destructive therapies for neovascular disease. This changed with the development of 2 therapies: (1) verteporfin photodynamic therapy (PDT) and (2) anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapies, which are now administered to millions of people annually around the world. Now, we are frustrated by the lack of therapies for early and intermediate AMD and geographic atrophy. Photodynamic therapy and anti-VEGF drug development occurred through a combination of analytic thought and creative disruption through innovation. To get past our current impasse in understanding and treating AMD, we need to harness both analysis and innovation. We have many important building blocks in place-information on genetics, clinical findings, imaging, and histology-and have identified key pathways and potential therapeutic targets. Perhaps we need additional investigation, analysis, and integration to improve our understanding through work on structure/function and genotype/phenotype correlations and development of imaging and systemic biomarkers. We likely also need an innovative disruption. This innovation might be the concept that there are subtypes of early and intermediate AMD characterized by specific clinical phenotypes, genotype, functional characteristics, and biomarkers that are dependent on particular pathways and treatable with a specific agent. We need to encourage innovation in each of us within our research and clinical community. CONCLUSIONS: Although we have accumulated extensive knowledge about AMD, we are currently at an impasse in the development of new treatments. We need to continue the analytic process, but at the same time encourage innovative disruption to develop successful AMD therapies.
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.
Parikh R, Avery RL, Saroj N, Thompson D, Freund BK. Incidence of New Choroidal Neovascularization in Fellow Eyes of Patients With Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treated With Intravitreal Aflibercept or Ranibizumab. JAMA Ophthalmol 2019;Abstract
Importance: Incidence of conversion to neovascular age-related macular degeneration (nAMD) in untreated fellow eyes of patients who are treated for nAMD in 1 eye with anti-vascular endothelial growth factor agents provides important prognostic information to clinically manage patients. Objective: To investigate the association of treatment assignment (intravitreal aflibercept vs ranibizumab) and baseline characteristics with fellow eye conversion to nAMD in the VEGF (Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor) Trap-Eye: Investigation of Efficacy and Safety in Wet AMD (VIEW) studies. Design, Setting, and Participants: This post hoc analysis of the VIEW 1 and VIEW 2 studies (randomized, double-masked, active-controlled, multicenter, 96-week, phase 3 trials comparing the efficacy and safety of intravitreal aflibercept in 2457 patients with treatment-naive eyes with nAMD) analyzed a subgroup of participants treated for nAMD in 1 eye who had untreated fellow eyes without neovascularization at baseline. All participants in the VIEW studies were included in 1 of 4 groups: ranibizumab, 0.5 mg, every 4 weeks; aflibercept, 2 mg, every 4 weeks; aflibercept, 0.5 mg, every 4 weeks; or aflibercept, 2 mg, every 8 weeks after 3 injections at 4-week intervals. Data collection in the VIEW studies occurred from July 2007 to August 2011; the data analysis presented in this report took place from April 2016 to November 2018. Interventions: Patients received no treatment in the fellow eyes unless after conversion to nAMD, when any treatment approved by heath authorities was given per the investigators' discretion. Main Outcomes and Measures: Incidence of conversion to nAMD in patients with untreated fellow eyes that had not had clinical signs of neovascularization at baseline. Results: A total of 1561 participants were included in this analysis. At 96 weeks, 375 patients (24.0%) experienced cases of conversion to neovascular disease in the fellow eye, including 107 of the 399 individuals who received ranibizumab, 0.5 mg, every 4 weeks; 93 of the 387 individuals who received aflibercept, 2 mg, every 4 weeks; 84 of the 387 individuals who received aflibercept, 0.5 mg, every 4 weeks; and 91 of the 388 individuals who received aflibercept, 2 mg, every 8 weeks after 3 doses at 4-week intervals. The rates were 18.1, 16.2, 14.7, and 16.0 per 100 patient-years at risk at week 96, respectively. On multivariate analysis, fellow eye conversion was associated with increasing patient age (per 10 years) at baseline (hazard ratio [HR], 1.20 [95% CI, 1.05-1.36]), female sex (HR, 1.32 [95% CI, 1.06-1.63]), intraretinal fluid in the study eye at baseline (HR, 1.28 [95% CI, 1.02-1.61]), and increasing choroidal neovascularization lesion size (per 10 mm2) in the study eye at baseline (HR, 1.29 [95% CI, 1.06-1.57]). Rates of fellow eye conversion were similar with either of the treatments. Conclusions and Relevance: In this secondary analysis of randomized clinical trial data, patients with active nAMD in 1 eye appeared to have a high risk for fellow eye conversion. Such patients should be monitored closely.
Laíns I, Chung W, Kelly RS, Gil J, Marques M, Barreto P, Murta JN, Kim IK, Vavvas DG, Miller JB, Silva R, Lasky-Su J, Liang L, Miller JW, Husain D. Human Plasma Metabolomics in Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Meta-Analysis of Two Cohorts. Metabolites 2019;9(7)Abstract
The pathogenesis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness worldwide, remains only partially understood. This has led to the current lack of accessible and reliable biofluid biomarkers for diagnosis and prognosis, and absence of treatments for dry AMD. This study aimed to assess the plasma metabolomic profiles of AMD and its severity stages with the ultimate goal of contributing to addressing these needs. We recruited two cohorts: Boston, United States ( = 196) and Coimbra, Portugal ( = 295). Fasting blood samples were analyzed using ultra-high performance liquid chromatography mass spectrometry. For each cohort, we compared plasma metabolites of AMD patients versus controls (logistic regression), and across disease stages (permutation-based cumulative logistic regression considering both eyes). Meta-analyses were then used to combine results from the two cohorts. Our results revealed that 28 metabolites differed significantly between AMD patients versus controls (false discovery rate (FDR) -value: 4.1 × 10-1.8 × 10), and 67 across disease stages (FDR -value: 4.5 × 10-1.7 × 10). Pathway analysis showed significant enrichment of glycerophospholipid, purine, taurine and hypotaurine, and nitrogen metabolism (-value ≤ 0.04). In conclusion, our findings support that AMD patients present distinct plasma metabolomic profiles, which vary with disease severity. This work contributes to the understanding of AMD pathophysiology, and can be the basis of future biomarkers and precision medicine for this blinding condition.
Papadopoulos Z. Aflibercept: A review of its effect on the treatment of exudative age-related macular degeneration. Eur J Ophthalmol 2019;29(4):368-378.Abstract
Considerable improvement has been achieved in the way in which exudative age-related macular degeneration is conventionally treated and in the associated visual outcomes and prognosis, thanks to the agents with effects against vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF). By comparison to earlier treatment approaches that involved the use of lasers, the anti-VEGF agents have made it possible to accomplish more positive visual and anatomical outcomes in cases of exudative age-related macular degeneration. Indeed, owing to their positive effects, anti-VEGF agents have quickly come to be considered the gold standard for the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration. Aflibercept, the most recently approved intravitreally administered anti-VEGF, seems to mark another milestone in the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration. This anti-VEGF agent presents a series of singular pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic attributes that provide it a number of biological benefits in relation to the treatment of choroidal neovascularization compared to other agents. These attributes include high level of affinity for the VEGF-A factor, an intravitreal half-life of great length, as well as the ability to serve as an antagonist for other growth factors besides VEGF. The impact of Aflibercept on the manner in which exudative age-related macular degeneration is managed was demonstrated by thoroughly reviewing the related literature. The present review article highlights the pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, safety and effectiveness of this anti-VEGF agent as well as the landmark clinical studies that have been carried out to establish this drug as a gold standard in the therapy of neovascular age-related macular degeneration. In addition, studies regarding the outcomes and effectiveness of the various dosage regimens, either as monotherapy or in combination with other agents, are also reviewed.
McHugh KJ, Li D, Wang JC, Kwark L, Loo J, Macha V, Farsiu S, Kim LA, Saint-Geniez M. Computational modeling of retinal hypoxia and photoreceptor degeneration in patients with age-related macular degeneration. PLoS One 2019;14(6):e0216215.Abstract
Although drusen have long been acknowledged as a primary hallmark of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) their role in the disease remains unclear. We hypothesize that drusen accumulation increases the barrier to metabolite transport ultimately resulting in photoreceptor cell death. To investigate this hypothesis, a computational model was developed to evaluate steady-state oxygen distribution in the retina. Optical coherence tomography images from fifteen AMD patients and six control subjects were segmented and translated into 3D in silico representations of retinal morphology. A finite element model was then used to determine the steady-state oxygen distribution throughout the retina for both generic and patient-specific retinal morphology. Oxygen levels were compared to the change in retinal thickness at a later time point to observe possible correlations. The generic finite element model of oxygen concentration in the retina agreed closely with both experimental measurements from literature and clinical observations, including the minimal pathological drusen size identified by AREDS (64 μm). Modeling oxygen distribution in the outer retina of AMD patients showed a substantially stronger correlation between hypoxia and future retinal thinning (Pearson correlation coefficient, r = 0.2162) than between drusen height and retinal thinning (r = 0.0303) indicating the potential value of this physiology-based approach. This study presents proof-of-concept for the potential utility of finite element modeling in evaluating retinal health and also suggests a potential link between transport and AMD pathogenesis. This strategy may prove useful as a prognostic tool for predicting the clinical risk of AMD progression.

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