The Barcelona Macula Foundation and the Institut de la Màcula study the relationship between AMD and the intestinal and oral microbiome
The MICROBEYEOME study aims to analyse the intestinal and oral microbiota of patients diagnosed with AMD with the aim of opening up new avenues of research for the prevention and treatment of the disease. Candidates are currently being selected by the Institut de la Màcula and the Barcelona Macula Foundation
The Barcelona Macula Foundation (BMF), in close collaboration with the Institut de la Màcula and the Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), are working on the MICROBEYEOME study. This aims to analyse the oral and intestinal microbiota of patients diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The main aim is to characterise the microbiome through the RNA 16S sequencing of those with AMD and compare it with the microbiome of healthy patients, and also to discover differences between different AMD phenotypes. This means that we could identify whether a single microbial composition can be associated with a specific phenotype. Given the premise that the microbiome is potentially modifiable, this study could open new avenues of research for the prevention and/or possible treatment of AMD.
In December, the Associació Discapacitat Visual Catalunya: B1+B2+B3, which advises and accompanies visually-impaired people and holds the City of Barcelona’s Medal of Honour, awarded the BMF the 25,000€ First Prize for Research into Visual Diseases for this research project.
The awarding jury comprised members of the Associació Discapacitat Visual Catalunya: B1+B2+B3, the Catalan Society of Ophthalmology and the Official College of Opticians and Optometrists of Catalonia.
The study is currently in the candidate selection phase. This opening phase consists of a single visit and the inclusion criteria are as follows:
- Patients of over 50, both those diagnosed with AMD and healthy patients.
- Patients must not have taken antibiotics in the past three months.
- Patients with other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease, or those in treatment for any type of cancer, are excluded.
AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in the over 50’s population in developed countries. Although the risk factors for the disease have been widely catalogued, its causes remain little known.
Globally, the main ophthalmological centres of reference are involved in the mission to improve current treatments for exudative AMD, advancing in prevention and in approach techniques and finding treatment for atrophic AMD. The Institut de la Màcula, in close collaboration with the Barcelona Macula Foundation, forms part of this group that aspires to reverse these vision pathologies that until recently were developing inexorably.
The role of the microbiome in eye health
The microbiome is the ecosystem formed by the microorganisms that inhabit our body, mainly the intestine although they also live in the skin, vagina and mouth. Until a few years ago, it was believed that these tiny tenants who coexist with us belonged to the plant kingdom and therefore were referred to as intestinal flora.
Every individual hosts a unique microbiome that is vital for life. This will play -in combination with its genetics- a key role in both health and disease. The microbiome participates in processes such as digestion, vitamin production, regulation of inflammatory conditions and differentiation between pathogenic and non-pathogenic microorganisms. The immune system and the microbiome are in constant dialogue but the unbalancing of this relationship can set off pathological processes.
Recent years have led to the discovery of the relationship between the intestinal microbiota and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's disease, neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or metabolic syndromes such as type II diabetes. In fact, the modification of the intestinal microbiota through diet may be considered to be one of the aims for metabolic syndromes (obesity, type II diabetes etc.).
Recent studies suggest that the microbiome may also play an important role in eye diseases like uveitis or exudative AMD. What has yet to be demonstrated in many cases is whether the changes observed in the microbiota are the cause or consequence of the disease.
In this video (in Spanish), Dr Jordi Monés, MD, PhD, explains the microbiome, the changes it may undergo throughout life and how it affects our health: