Unexpected Macular Degeneration Discovery

Unexpected Macular Degeneration Discovery

In the search for a macular degeneration cure, many factors are taken into consideration. Age, gender, genes, etc. yet there is one constant that science is able to harness, inflammation. You may think inflammation happens on the outside of the body but the amount of cellular swelling you experience daily is staggering. Thankfully, the body can control most of this internal inflammation, however, when the inflammation takes over, disease is practically imminent. 

Recent research has reported an unexpected macular degeneration discovery revolving around the mechanisms involved in functions that may be affected by inflammation. The good news is that pharmaceuticals are underway to suppress the inflammation and there are ways you can naturally help as well. 

IL-4 Gone Haywire

The immune-stimulating protein interleukin-4 (IL-4) along with the receptor it connects to has shown an anomaly response that may be linked to the development of macular degeneration. This protein is responsible for suppressing excessive blood vessel growth which is one of the major factors in AMD (age-related macular degeneration). Upon closer inspection, in those developing or diagnosed with AMD, IL-4 may be playing a key role. 

Naturally, blood vessels can inflame and grow throughout the retina eventually damaging the photoreceptors which create sight. Bone marrow cells would repair the retinal damage and IL-4 would stop the blood vessel growth. However, the new finding shows that those with AMD have higher levels of IL-4 which, when studied further, showed it was doing the opposite of its intended function.   

Autoimmune Response

Science Daily reported on research out of the Division of Ophthalmology and Visual Science at Tottori University, Japan which compared data from 234 patients with AMD and 104 patients with cataracts awaiting surgery. 

The patients with AMD presented as having higher amounts of IL-4 than those with cataracts which led researchers to believe that the IL-4 was helping fight AMD. The only way they could determine this was to give IL-4 to lab mice with a condition that mimics AMD. It was discovered that IL-4 was actually causing inflamed blood vessel growth rather than suppressing it. This may determine that AMD could be characterized as an auto-immune disease which essentially means that, due to some unknown factor, the body is attacking itself. 

There are over one hundred autoimmune diseases that scientists have been struggling to treat for decades. As the root cause is rarely found, doctors only have one other choice in treating these diseases and that is to stop the direct damage being manifested. 

According to study authors Takashi Baba, Junior Associate Professor and Dai Miyazaki, Associate Professor,

“Our results show that IL-4 plays a crucial role in excessive blood-vessel growth by recruiting bone marrow cells that aid this growth to the lesion in the eye,…These results were surprising and suggest that normally helpful immune responses can instead cause more harm,…As IL-4 plays a key disease-promoting role in AMD, it may serve as a target for new treatments to treat this condition.”

Stopping the Internal Fight

Researchers were hard pressed to determine if IL-4 was the actual culprit for the abnormal blood vessel growth on the retina. The study, as posted by eLife Sciences, stated,

“To examine the role of IL-4 in the inductive phase of CNV [choroidal neovascularization – excessive blood vessel growth] development in more detail, laser-treated mice were injected intravenously with an anti-IL-4 antibody on day 0 and day 3 to try to inhibit the expression of IL-4. Consistent with the effects of IL-4 administration, an IL-4 blockade significantly reduced the size of the CNV.”

Targeting IL-4 production in those with AMD may be a new treatment option to slow macular degeneration development. It may also be a possible deterrent in those showing signs of pre-AMD which, researchers are hopeful, may be able to stop disease progression from the start. Anti-IL-4 pharmaceutical delivery would probably be similar to anti-VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) therapy which involves injection of medicine into the eye. In fact, IL-4 is considered a form of VEGF and targeting this specific protein may warrant more success than the previous anti-VEGF targeting therapy alone. There may also be the possibility of combining these two therapies as studies continue to move rapidly toward human trials. 

In the meantime, back to inflammation being one significant cause in the development of AMD as well as many other health compromises. It is also a large consideration in auto-immune diseases such as macular degeneration. As conventional medicine continues to put out the fires of inflammatory responses like increased blood vessel growth on the retina, some researchers believe changing your diet may significantly reduce internal inflammation and possibly keep disease on the sidelines. 

Natural Anti-VEGF Eating

The unexpected macular degeneration discovery of IL-4 gone haywire is a response to something in the body telling the immune system to attack itself. Science corroborates that inflammation plays a key role in the development of AMD.

The study, ‘Inflammation and its role in age-related macular degeneration’ published in Cellular and Molecular Life, stated, 

“AMD is an ocular disease with inflammation strongly interwoven into its pathogenesis. Several PRRs [pattern-recognition receptors] become activated by endogenous intra- and extracellular danger signals inducing an inflammatory response beyond the homeostasis-maintaining para-inflammation. Degenerative changes in RPE [retinal pigment epithelium] cells trigger a vicious circle that promotes the development of chronic inflammation in the retina and the choroid. Age-related changes in the immune system contribute to this destructive process by altering the functions of immune cells.” 

Eating anti-inflammatory foods may help. These are foods that are in the natural state, not packaged of processed in any way. Super antioxidants like kale, spinach, broccoli, and collard greens along with legumes, whole grains, fruits and vegetables are optimal choices. Eating a majority of plant based foods may very well reduce systemic as well as ocular inflammation which could prevent the autoimmune IL-4 response. 

Science agrees. A study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity it was stated that,

“In epidemiological studies a healthy diet, avoiding food which is high in sugar, fat, alcohol, refined starch, and oils, and absence of smoking and physical activity (low-intensity exercise for one or two hours per day, outside when possible) were associated with reduced occurrence of early or advanced AMD, or both…More importantly, the adoption of a Mediterranean diet and physical activity and avoiding [] sedentary behavior may reduce the prevalence of the early stages of AMD, decrease the number of individuals who develop advanced AMD, and consequently reduce the burden associated with the treatment of this disease.”

The unexpected macular degeneration discovery of the malfunction of IL-4 shows how even the human body can be tricked by outside forces. With manageable pharmaceuticals and some healthy diet change hopefully these outside forces can be thwarted until science catches up and cures age-related macular degeneration.