An Eye on Age-Related Macular Degeneration: The Role of MicroRNAs in Disease Pathology.Mol Diagn Ther. 2017 02; 21(1):31-43.MD
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the primary cause of blindness in developed countries, and is the third leading cause worldwide. Emerging evidence suggests that beside environmental and genetic factors, epigenetic mechanisms, such as microRNA (miRNA) regulation of gene expression, are relevant to AMD providing an exciting new avenue for research and therapy. MiRNAs are short, non-coding RNAs thought to be imperative for coping with cellular stress. Numerous studies have analyzed miRNA dysregulation in AMD patients, although with varying outcomes. Four studies which profiled dysregulated circulating miRNAs in AMD yielded unique sets, and there is only minimal overlap in ocular miRNA profiling of AMD. Mouse models of AMD, including oxygen-induced retinopathy and laser-induced choroidal neovascularization, showed similarities to some extent with miRNA patterns in AMD. For example, miR-146a is an extensively researched miRNA thought to modulate inflammation, and was found to be upregulated in AMD mice and cellular systems, but also in human AMD retinae and vitreous humor. Similarly, mir-17, miR-125b and miR-155 were dysregulated in multiple AMD mouse models as well as in human AMD plasma or retinae. These miRNAs are thought to regulate angiogenesis, apoptosis, phagocytosis, and inflammation. A promising avenue of research is the modulation of such miRNAs, as the phenotype of AMD mice could be ameliorated with antagomirs or miRNA-mimic treatment. However, before meaningful strides can be made to develop miRNAs as a diagnostic or therapeutic tool, reproducible miRNA profiles need to be established for the various clinical outcomes of AMD.