New mathematical model helps simulate progression of age-related macular degeneration
Researchers at the Carlos III University of Madrid (UC3M) created a mathematical model and digitally simulated the progression of age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of blindness. This model makes it possible to better understand the onset of this disease and to evaluate the most effective treatments.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a degenerative disease of the macula, the central area of the retina. There is currently no cure for the disease and it is characterized by progressive loss of central vision and is the leading cause of blindness in developed countries in people over 65 years of age. It is estimated that AMD affects around 800,000 people in Spain. It is estimated that around 196 million people are affected worldwide and it is also estimated that this number will reach 288 million by 2040.
There are two types of AMD: the dry or atrophic phase, which is usually the first and most common phase that progresses slowly; the acute phase, known as the wet or exudative phase, which occurs less frequently but has a worse visual prognosis. In this latter form of AMD, there is angiogenesis under the retina, an abnormal growth of very fragile blood vessels that can lose fluid or bleed, which can break down and destroy the photoreceptor cells needed to see.
In their research, UC3M scientists created a computer simulation model of angiogenesis (the spread of blood capillaries) that takes into account how this process takes place in the eye.
What happens in this case is that with age, a barrier (called a Bruch’s membrane) that separates the capillaries from the inner part of the retina becomes less permeable and, therefore, does not provide enough oxygen or nutrients to the photoreceptors. They then emit a signaling protein (called endothelial vessel growth factor) that diffuses, passes into the blood vessels and triggers this angiogenesis, which is the cause of the disease. “
Luis L. Bonilla, “Gregorio MillánBarbany” University Institute of UC3M for modeling and simulation in fluid dynamics, nanosciences and industrial mathematics
Luis L. Bonilla recently published a scientific article with Rocío Vega and Manuel Carretero in the journal Biomedicines.
In practice, relatively little is known about the course and onset of this disease and researchers hope that using this mathematical modeling, they will be able to better understand how this disease is created, how long it takes. to progress and if there is a way to stop it using current therapies. “The model has several parameters that characterize the progression of the disease. You can modify them and predict how the disease will progress based on the values, so it can be used to monitor the course of the process, ”explains Prof Bonilla.
Numerical simulations of the model suggest that therapies based on decreasing growth factors and proteins essential for angiogenesis may temporarily slow the disease, while other therapies based on improving cell adhesion may be more effective in the long term. In addition to that, this model could be used to look for other retinal diseases, according to scientists, such as diabetic retinopathy or that associated with premature babies, because in these cases these diseases also arise due to growth. abnormal blood vessels.