The death of RPE cells in diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP) lead to severe visual impairments or blindness. The RPE also produces L-Dopa, a compound required to produce dopamine, which is crucial for the communication of certain specialized cells of the brain, called the dopaminergic neurons. When these neurons begin to die widely, patients develop Parkinson's disease.
The connection was discovered by a team at Duke University and published online October 24 in The Journal of Biological Chemistry. Led by Dr. Paulo A Ferreira, and supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the research found a genetic link between a multifunctional protein, called Ranbp2, and death (degeneration) of the RPE and Parkinson's disease.
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Credit: Duke University Medical Center