Parkinson’s Drug L-DOPA May Protect Against Macular Degeneration

Brian S. McKay, Ph.D Associate Professor Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science University of Arizona Medical Research Building, Room 212 Tucson, AZ 85724

Dr. McKay

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Brian S. McKay, Ph.D

Associate Professor
Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science
University of Arizona
Medical Research Building, Room 212
Tucson, AZ 85724 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. McKay: AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is a disease that is race-related. White people get the disease and lose vision to AMD at much higher rate than Blacks or Hispanics.

Thus, while race is complex, pigmentation may protect from the disease. With this starting point, my laboratory went after the pigmentation pathway to determine how pigment may affect photoreceptor (the retinal cells that actually catch the light) survival. The  pigmented cells in the back of the eye are the retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE), the rest of the retina does not pigment, it is clear not brown. We discovered that when the RPE make pigment they turn on molecular pathways to foster photoreceptor survival. Next we discovered the ligand for a receptor on the RPE that was tied to governing photoreceptor survival and pigmentation. That ligand was L-DOPA.

Knowing that L-DOPA is given to many aging individuals (those at risk of AMD), we developed a team to ask whether those taking L-DOPA for movement disorders are protected from AMD.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. McKay: Individuals taking L-DOPA are significantly less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration , and if they do develop the disease it’s at a much later age.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. McKay: We may have a safe way to prevent the most common form on irreversible blindness on the planet.Currently, we do not know what causes  age-related macular degeneration , have no treatment for the 90% that develop dry AMD, and only invasive and expensive repeated intravitreal injections from those with ‘wet’ AMD. 

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. McKay: We should develop a prospective clinical trial to confirm the results of this study, and begin to determine how much L-DOPA should be given patients as a preventative, and what the dosing regimen should be.

Citation:

Murray H. Brilliant, Kamyar Vaziri, Thomas B. Connor, Stephen G. Schwartz, Joseph J. Carroll, Catherine A. McCarty, Steven J. Schrodi, Scott J. Hebbring, Krishna S. Kishor, Harry W. Flynn, Andrew A. Moshfeghi, Darius M. Moshfeghi, M Elizabeth Fini, Brian S. McKay.Mining Retrospective Data for Virtual Prospective Drug Repurposing: L-DOPA and Age-related Macular Degeneration.

The American Journal of Medicine, 2015;
DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2015.10.015

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Brian S. McKay, Ph.D (2015). Parkinson’s Drug L-DOPA May Protect Against Macular Degeneration 

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