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Discovery of enzyme may lead to new therapies

Researchers at the University of Kentucky have discovered a new clue in what causes geographic atrophy, an advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Patients diagnosed with the dry form of AMD currently have no medical therapies available for them. An enzyme known as DICER1 may hold the key that unlocks the door to providing new therapies for AMD patients. DICER1 quits working in the patients who have dry AMD. This leads to a buildup of genetic material known as Alu RNA. As a result, the patient's retina becomes irreparably damaged over time and loses function. With this knowledge, researchers are now testing mice to see if switching off the DICER1 enzyme will cause them to go blind. Researchers are evaluating a couple of potential therapies. One would add back more DICER1 and the second therapy would eliminate the Alu RNA before it can build up.* Elise Ervin Staff Writer

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