A cutting-edge project has produced a vast “road map” for proteins in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and choroid of the eye. The project, conducted by recent grantees of a BrightFocus grant, mapped the locations and quantities of 4,403 different eye proteins. This research could be invaluable to further understanding of conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Researchers Vinit B. Mahajan, MD, PhD, and Jessica M. Skeie, PhD, of the University of Iowa wanted to look closely at the RPE, a pigmented layer of cells that aid the retina. The RPE is responsible for dissolving and removing unwanted matter and thus plays a large role in AMD.
The RPE maintains the retina with proteins that set off “signaling pathways.” Patients affected by age, stress, and/or genetic predisposition may experience effects of AMD when the RPE starts misfiring these signals. Wrong signals can also affect the nearby choroid, which can over-produce fragile blood vessels as an early sign of AMD.
The mapping project thus provides extensive information about the “landscape” of proteins in a healthy eye. The map may also indicate which areas of the eye are most susceptible to different disease processes, which could lead to more effective and specialized treatments.