ORCID ID

0000-0002-2600-2923

Publication Date

2021-09-30

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Neuroscience

Department

Ophthalmology

First Thesis Advisor

Claudio Punzo

Keywords

retina, gene therapy, ophthalmology, age-related macular degeneration, AMD, photoreceptor, metabolism, anti-VEGF

Abstract

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause for visual impairment in the elderly. The etiology of AMD remains unclear. Clinical and histopathological studies suggest that photoreceptors play a role in disease progression. Here, we found that photoreceptors of AMD patients show adaptive changes in gene expression, suggestive of a nutrient shortage. To study the effect of these changes, we mimicked the metabolic alteration in mouse photoreceptors, by disruption of the Tuberous Sclerosis Complex (TSC). This led to AMD hallmarks, including the advanced stages of geographic atrophy (GA) and choroidal neovascularization (CNV). Furthermore, we found that disease onset requires the activity of the mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1). To study the contribution of photoreceptors to disease, we profiled retinal phospholipids as photoreceptors are rich in phospholipids. We found a reduction in two docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)-containing phospholipids. Feeding DHA to mutant mice, alleviated most AMD-associated hallmarks. To study the inflammatory complications seen with current anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) treatments for CNV we used rAAV-mediated gene transfer to overexpress an anti-VEGF protein. We found that inhibition of VEGF can promote retinal inflammation. The data suggests that targeting photoreceptor metabolism may provide novel therapies to treat AMD.

DOI

10.13028/me6p-z637

Rights and Permissions

Copyright is held by the author, with all rights reserved.

Available for download on Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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