New Scholar Award in Aging
Cindy X. Cai, M.D., Ph.D.
Tufts University School of Medicine

Nuclear Ferritin May Protect Against Oxidative and Light-induced DNA Damage in Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss in developed countries. Retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) degeneration initiates AMD. Oxidative stress has been suggested for RPE aging/degeneration. However, corneal epithelilal cells (CE) rarely suffer from such damage though they are constantly exposed to UV light and O2. I have identified a novel nuclear ferritin-based mechanism that protects CE cells. I propose that nuclear ferritin, if induced in RPE cells, might also protect them from light-induced and oxidative DNA damage. The specific areas for future studies are: (1) to test if nuclear ferritin protects telomere shortening and DNA damage in RPE cells, (2) to examine how nuclear ferritin protects DNA from oxidative and light-induced damage. If the nuclear ferritin-based protective mechanism turns out to be true for RPE cells, this has important implications for other cells where age-related degeneration is problematic, like Alzheimer’s disease.

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