An international team of researchers have developed a cell culture model that could help to develop earlier treatment strategies for AMD.
The research was carried out by Queen's University Belfast, University College London and the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA.
The study found that retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells removed directly from the eye can reproduce all the major known elements of drusen, the extracellular deposits rich in fats and proteins which accumulate under the retina, when the cells are grown on specific surfaces.
The cell culture model developed confirms that RPE cells in early AMD are functional and that the conditions of the layer in the eye on which RPE cells grow, is key for the formation of drusen deposits. While these deposits do not cause AMD, their presence increases a person's risk of developing the disease.
The model is the most comprehensive developed so far and will provide an insight into disease progression and the best route to early treatment before vision loss occurs.