Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a common condition that causes damage to our eyes as we get older. In its most extreme form, known as wet AMD, it can lead to blindness, but scientists in Canada believe they may have discovered an important clue toward AMD treatment and prevention—and that clue happens to be located in the gut.
Using mice, a team of researchers from the University of Montreal recently determined that changes in gut bacteria may contribute to the onset of AMD by triggering an abnormal immune response in the body. Specifically, eating a diet rich in unhealthy fats can alter the microbial community in the gut, where up to 70 percent of our immune defenses can be found. This can lead to chronic inflammation, which in turn may worsen conditions such as wet AMD.
“Our study suggests that diets rich in fat alter the gut microbiome in a way that aggravates wet AMD, a vascular disease of the aging eye. Influencing the types of microbes that reside in your gut either through diet or by other means may thus affect the chances of developing AMD and progression of this blinding disease,” said lead author Dr. Przemyslaw Sapieha.
Researchers believe their findings, published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine, may begin to explain the strong link between obesity and AMD. It is possible that modifying the gut bacteria with friendly microbes (probiotics) may help reduce inflammation and prevent or delay the onset of macular degeneration.