PURPOSE: To describe the immune alterations associated with, age related macular degeneration (AMD). Based on these findings, to offer an approach to possibly prevent the expression of late disease.
DESIGN: Perspective METHODS: Review of the existing literature dealing with epidemiology, models, and immunologic findings in patients.
RESULTS: Significant genetic associations have been identified and reported, but environmentally induced (including epigenetic) changes are also an important consideration. Immune alterations include a strong interleukin-17 family signature as well as marked expression of these molecules in the eye. Oxidative stress as well as other homeostatic altering mechanisms occurs throughout life. With this immune dysregulation there is a rationale for considering immunotherapy. Indeed immunotherapy has been shown to affect the late stages of AMD.
CONCLUSION: Immune dysregulation appears to be an underlying alteration in AMD as in other diseases thought to be degenerative and due to aging. Parainflammation and immunosensescence may importantly contribute to the development of disease. The role of complement factor H still needs to be better defined but in light of its association with ocular inflammatory conditions such as sarcoidosis, it does not appear to be unique to AMD but rather may be a marker for retinal pigment epithelium function. With the strong interleukin-17 family signature and the need to treat early on in the disease process, oral tolerance may be considered to prevent disease progression.