HEALTH NEWS
03/06/2013 10:26 am ET

Age-Related Macular Degeneration And Genes: Scientists Identify 7 New Genetic Risk Factors

New research from government scientists paints a clearer picture of how genetics may play a role in age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, the leading cause of blindness in people age 60 and older.

Researchers have identified seven places on the human genome that seem to be linked with the vision loss condition, adding to the 12 that had been identified in previous research. The study is published in the journal Nature Genetics.

The findings provide "insight into the molecular basis of AMD, which will help researchers search for causes of the disease and will inform future development of new diagnostic and treatment strategies," study researcher Dr. Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., the director of the National Eye Institute, said in a statement.

The findings are based on 17,100 people with severe forms of age-related macular degeneration, as well as 60,000 people without the eye condition.

Currently there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, which is a condition that causes vision loss because of cell death in the eye's macula, according to the National Institutes of Health. There are two forms of the disease, wet and dry; wet AMD is caused when there are blood vessels that grow underneath the macula, whereas dry AMD is caused by the breakdown of cells in the macula.

While the biggest risk factor for the condition is age -- after all, advanced AMD affects 15 percent of white women age 80 and older, according to the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology -- genetics and other environmental factors are known to play a role. There has also been some recent evidence to suggest that aspirin may raise the risk for the condition, as well as C-reactive proteins (linked with inflammation).

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