Gene mutation found for eye disease that mimics macular degeneration

ANN ARBOR, MI -- University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center scientists have been studying a family whose members have an eye disease that looks like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but that has a rarer pattern of inheritance that results in an exceptionally high incidence of the disease among family members in the study.

In the August issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS), Kellogg scientist Radha Ayyagari, Ph.D., and her collaborators from the U-M and other institutions identify the gene associated with this unusual macular disease. They report on the Tyr141Cys mutation in a gene called RDS.

According to Ayyagari, the marked similarity between AMD and the AMD-like disease will help researchers learn more about the molecular basis of AMD. The findings could have even greater significance because Ayyagari and her colleagues suspect that some individuals with AMD may also harbor the RDS mutation.

AMD is a progressive disease affecting the macula, the area of the retina responsible for central vision that enables us to drive, read, and identify faces. It affects about 1.65 million individuals in this country each year; the first symptoms tend to appear at age 60 or older.

Ayyagari's group discovered the mutation by studying members of five generations of a large family, known to researchers as SUNY901. The family has a high incidence of a macular disease that resembles AMD, begins at age 50 or older, and has both wet and dry forms, much like AMD.

But in contrast to AMD, it has an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance, which means that the disease can be passed to a child by either parent and that the child of an affected parent has about a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disease.

The family members who are affected by the disease may have symptoms with varying degrees of severity, but the condition frequently results in permanent loss of central vision. Co-author Shahrokh C. Khani, M.D

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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