First Thesis Advisor
retina, gene therapy, ophthalmology, age-related macular degeneration, AMD, photoreceptor, metabolism, anti-VEGF
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.
Cheng S. (2021). Elucidating the Role of Photoreceptors in Age-Related Macular Degeneration and the Discovery of Potential Therapies. Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Dissertations and Theses. https://doi.org/10.13028/me6p-z637. Retrieved from https://escholarship.umassmed.edu/gsbs_diss/1161
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Available for download on Wednesday, November 22, 2023