Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati, vice chairman for research of UVA‚Äôs Department of Ophthalmology and Nagaraj Kerur, assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, and their laboratories have determined that an enzyme called cGAS triggers extreme inflammation that plays a causative role in the development of both dry and wet forms of age-related macular degeneration. Normally, the enzyme plays an important role in the body‚Äôs immune response to infections by detecting foreign DNA.
When cGAS is activated, an immune alarm system is turned on that appears to inadvertently lead to the killing of the cells in the retina, and, ultimately, vision loss.
Doctors Ambati and Kerur hope that drugs can be developed that block the reaction of this enzyme's activity in the eye.*