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by Marijana Domazet, Monday, April 29, 2013 | Categories: Cholesterol

In medicine, it is not uncommon to use the same type of medicine for different diseases. In fact, there is an entire line of research dedicated to investigating how to make old treatments suitable for new diseases. One area that has been receiving particular attention recently is the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs for various eye-disorders.

According to a recently published study, there is potential for cholesterol treatment (in the form of eye-drops) to prevent macular degeneration. It is known that high cholesterol has an effect on the immune system, which in turn appears to affect various stages of macular degeneration. Essentially, macular degeneration occurs as a result of light-sensing cells becoming damaged. Following that, it can progress to a more aggressive form where new blood vessels can cause blindness. The former is known as the dry version, whereas the latter is known as the wet version.

In the study, which was published in the journal Cell Metabolism, the researchers investigated the evolution from the dry version to the wet version of macular degeneration. All of their research was conducted on animal models. Their surprising finding indicated that the so-called macrophages played a key role in worsening the condition. Rather than protecting blood cells by eating fatty deposits and returning them to the blood, they became “bloated”. As a result the area would get inflamed, which in turn necessitated the creation of new blood vessels. Given that blood fats cause hardened blood arteries, the researchers urged for future studies to consider whether it is possible to use cholesterol-lowering eye-drops to prevent or reduce the generation of fat around the macula. This news was cautiously welcomed by several charities for visually impaired individuals who maintained that the findings are in their early stages.

We are inclined to agree. Although the consequences of macular degeneration are undesirable, we see little research to date to leap to developing treatments based on a handful of studies. Nevertheless, it has opened up a pathway worth investigating and we do hope that it proves fruitful.

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