Age-related macular disease (AMD) is a major cause of blindness and there is little treatment currently available by which the progress of the basic disorder can be modulated. Histological and clinical studies show that the major tissues involved are the outer retina, retinal pigment epithelium, Bruch’s membrane and choroid. Because of a wide variation of phenotype from one case to another, it has been suggested that accurate phenotyping would be necessary for assessment of the effectiveness of treatment that is tissue-directed. However, based on findings from the study of human donor material and animal models of disease and of cell culture, it is concluded that retinal pigment epithelial dysfunction plays a central role in the disease process in most, if not all, cases of early AMD. The metabolism of phagosomal material, particularly lipids, and energy generation are interdependent, and dysfunction of both appears to be important in the genesis of disease. Evidence exists to suggest that both can be modulated therapeutically. These metabolic functions are amenable to further investigation in both the normal state and in disease. Once fully characterised, it is likely that treatment could be directed towards a limited number of functions in single tissue, thus simplifying treatment strategies.
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