It is pleasant to be presented with the prospect of a comparatively simple mechanism at the root of an extremely complex array of age-related medical conditions. Simpler roots to a range of complex biological failure mechanisms are what we would expect to find if approaches like the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence are to be much more cost effective - and produce results more rapidly - than treating the end results of age-related cellular damage. While the complexity of failure modes should be greater than the complexity of multiple root causes, it's not always the case that knowledge of biochemical processes and the capabilities of modern biotechnology are up to sorting out all the loose ends and chains of causality. Yet.
In any case, various news outlets are reporting on the possibility of comparatively simple mechanisms at the root of most age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a collection of conditions causing progressive blindness:
The researchers found 74% of the people with AMD had either the Factor H or Factor B risk factor or both - but no protective variants of either gene.
Lead researcher Dr Rando Allikmets said "I am not aware of any other complex disorder where nearly 75% of genetic causality has been identified.
"These findings are significant because they absolutely confirm the roles of these two genes and, consequently, the central role of a specific immune response pathway, in the development of AMD.
"In just a few short years, we've gone from knowing very little about what causes AMD to knowing quite a lot. We now have clear targets for early therapeutic intervention."
The researchers are now searching for the specific triggers that set off the immune response, and subsequent inflammation.
Considering that AMD is a catch-all category for many variant medical conditions, this is a surprising and pleasing finding. In this day and age of rapid research, a clear target for intervention is only a year of lab work away from good preliminary results in the development of a therapy.
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