Immunological and aetiological aspects of macular degeneration

Prog Retin Eye Res. 2001 May;20(3):385-414. doi: 10.1016/s1350-9462(00)00025-2.


Aetiological and immunological aspects of AMD, a leading cause of blindness in Western countries, have been reviewed. Developmental studies suggest that anatomical features unique to the fovea result in a critical relationship between metabolic demand and blood supply at the macula, which is maintained throughout life. Recent studies show a sufficient degree of consistency in the link between smoking and both dry and wet AMD to regard it as causative. Dry AMD is considered to be the natural endstage of the disease; epidemiological and morphological studies point to choroidal vascular atrophy as the causative event and it is suggested that signals associated with acute vascular compromise lead to the development of subretinal neovascularisation. The relationship between sub-pigment epithelial deposits, including basal laminar deposit, and the pathogenesis of AMD is examined. Much of the literature is consistent with a choroidal origin for the constituents of drusen. The blood-retinal barrier preserves the physiological environment of the neural retina and limits inflammatory responses. The factors, including cytokines, adhesion molecules and the presence of resident immunocompetent cells (microglia), which determine the immune status of the retina are considered. Historical descriptions of the involvement of inflammatory cells are provided, evidence implicating inflammation in the pathogenesis of AMD involving macrophages, giant cells and microglia has been derived from observations of human and animal subretinal neovascular lesions. The role of humoral factors such as anti-retinal autoantibodies and acute phase proteins together with clinical observations has been surveyed. Taken together these data demonstrate the involvement of both cellular and humoral immunity in the pathogenesis of AMD. It remains to be determined to what degree the influence of immunity is causative or contributory in both wet and dry AMD, however, the use of anti-inflammatory agents to ameliorate the condition further indicates the existence of an inflammatory component.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunity
  • Macula Lutea / immunology
  • Macular Degeneration / etiology*
  • Macular Degeneration / immunology*
  • Macular Degeneration / pathology