US scientists have found that a type of herpes-virus infection of the eye is associated with age-related macular degeneration, a disease that causes blindness in the elderly.
The findings, appearing inPLoS Pathogens, indicate that human cytomegalovirus causes the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a signal protein that regulates the formation of new blood vessels. With the formation of these new blood vessels, retinal tissue destruction occurs, leading to the development of age-related macular degeneration and eventually, blindness.
“Prior to this work, cofactors for the development of AMD [age-related macular degeneration] included genetics, a high fat diet and smoking. Now, we are adding an infections agent as another cofactor,” said immunologist Richard D. Dix, from the Georgia State University Viral Immunology Center.