Researchers from the US have made a very detailed map of a region of the eye that has long been associated with loss of vision in human beings, like Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD).
An Indian-origin researcher was also involved in the team that created this map, which takes into account everything, right down to the molecular level.
In this study, the researchers compared the molecular composition in a normal eye to that to a blind eye. The protein molecules that were found in the normal eye, but not in the blind eye, were mapped. The researchers believe that the absence of these particular proteins blinds the eye.
This map is the most detailed molecular map of the eye known to mankind. Many scientists have tried to create such maps of the eye before. However, they have found that mapping the eye is a herculean task. There are hundreds of thousands of proteins present in the choroid region of the eye, which makes chalking out the proteins, which are responsible for blindness, to be a very difficult task.
"This molecular map now gives us clues why certain areas of the choroid are more sensitive to certain diseases, as well as where to target therapies and why," Vinit Mahajan, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Iowa, told NDTV.
"Before this, we just didn't know what was there. Yet they've been vexed by the anatomy: Why does it seem that some that some areas of the choroid-RPE are more susceptible to diseases than others and what is happening at the molecular level?"
Due to this map, the scientists have been able to discover that a number of the eye diseases (including the AMD) are mainly caused due to an inflammation. This inflammation damages the choroid region of the eye, ripping apart the Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE), a cellular network within the choroid region.
"We were able to identify thousands of proteins simultaneously and develop a map that shows what are the patterns of proteins that make these regions unique," said Jessica Skeie, the first author of the study and Post-Doctoral Researcher of Ophthalmology at the University of Iowa. "This has helped explain why certain genes are associated with molecular degeneration, and helps point us to new treatment targets."
The map has also helped them catalogue at least 4,000 distinctive proteins from each area within the choroid-RPE. The choroid-RPE contains three areas: the periphery, the macula and the fovea.