The Barcelona Macula Foundation and the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), in close collaboration with the Institut de la Màcula, are working together on a study analysing the intestinal and oral microbiota of patients diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The aim is to identify whether a single microbiotic composition might be associated with a specific phenotype and thereby lead to new pathways to develop preventative therapies.
The microbiome is the ecosystem made up of the microorganisms that live in the body, mainly in the gut. An increasing number of studies are finding a relationship between the state of the microbiome and human disorders. Recent research suggests it may play a significant role in various ocular disorders and specifically in the pathogenesis of AMD. Unlike other fields (genomics, proteomics, etc.), the microbiome can potentially be altered and is therefore more interesting from a therapeutic perspective.
“Omic approaches” (techniques based on analysing the whole range of proteins, lipids, genes, etc. instead of analysing them bit by bit) provide a “system-wide” focus to discover biomarkers and classify pathologies. Of all these, the microbiome promises to hold the key to understanding and treating various disorders as it can also be altered through diet, as well as other means. Studies on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s have shown that an altered microbiome aggravates neuroinflammation. It is therefore reasonable to assume that a comprehensive approach which explores various interrelated omics should reveal hidden relationships between genes, proteins and microorganisms that could trigger a disorder via different mechanisms.
At present, no study has addressed the composition of the intestinal and oral microbiota in the different forms of AMD to identify whether a single microbiota composition might be associated with a specific phenotype. The extent of inflammation and genes related to AMD will also be examined by analysing blood samples.
The aim is to find specific molecular pathways and biomarkers that improve the accuracy of a patient’s prognosis, help to understand the pathogenesis of the disorder and underpin the development of new therapies both to treat and prevent AMD.
AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people aged 50 and over in developed countries. It affects 196 million people worldwide, a figure estimated to reach 288 million by 2040. Although its risk factors (genetic and non-genetic) have been widely described, we still know relatively little about its causes.
Author: Míriam Garcia, member of the BMF research team