University of Iowa (UI) researchers have created the most detailed map to date of the abundance of thousands of proteins in the choroid, a region of the human eye long associated with blinding diseases. By seeing differences in protein abundance, the researchers can begin to figure out which proteins may be the critical actors in vision loss and eye disease. Understanding eye diseases is tricky enough. Knowing what causes them at the molecular level is even more confounding. Now, University of Iowa researchers have created the most detailed map to date of a region of the human eye long associated with blinding diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration. The high-resolution molecular map catalogs thousands of proteins in the choroid, which supplies blood and oxygen to the outer retina, itself critical in vision. By seeing differences in the abundance of proteins in different areas of the choroid, the researchers can begin to figure out which proteins may be the critical actors in vision loss and eye disease. “This molecular map now gives us clues why certain areas of the choroid are more sensitive to certain diseases, as well as where to target therapies and why,” says Dr. Vinit Mahajan, assistant professor in ophthalmology at the UI and corresponding author on the paper, published online on July 24, 2014 in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology. “Before this, we just didn’t know what was where.” What vision specialists know is many eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), are caused by inflammation that damages the choroid and the accompanying cellular network known as the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Yet they’ve been vexed by the anatomy: Why does it seem that some areas of the choroid-RPE are more susceptible to disease than others, and what is happening at the molecular level?
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