Understanding Vascular Pathology of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Gerard A. Lutty, PhD
Johns Hopkins Hospital

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans over the age of 50 and involves the degeneration of the small, central portion of the retina, known as the macula. The cause of AMD is largely unknown and so it is critical to understand the pathogenesis of the disease to develop new prevention or therapeutic strategies.

Gerard Lutty, PhD, a professor of Ophthalmology at the Wilmer Ophthalmological Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and his team are investigating the changes that occur in the choroidal vasculature following AMD. Loss of blood vessel supply to the retina can result in death of retinal cells and contribute to disease progression. Dr. Lutty’s group has evaluated the loss of the small choroidal capillaries (choriocapillaris) in AMD using human donor tissue. They have found that choriocapillaris die early on in wet AMD, making the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) hypoxic and a source of VEGF. In geographic atrophy, a form of dry AMD, the RPE die first and then the choriocapillaris. The goal of this work is to develop therapies for AMD that would stop the loss of these blood vessels in the affected area.

In addition to AMD, Dr. Lutty’s group studies the development of blood vessels in the eye and how they are impacted in other ocular diseases, such as diabetic and sickle cell retinopathies.