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Macular degeneration gene found

Scientists have identified genes whose expression levels can identify people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) as well as tell apart its subtypes.

AMD is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, especially in developed countries, and there is currently no known treatment or cure or for the vast majority of AMD patients. It is estimated that 6.5 percent of people over age 40 in the US currently have AMD. There is an inheritable genetic risk factor but risk is also increased for smokers and with exposure to UV light. Genome-wide studies have indicated that genes involved in the innate immune system and fat metabolism are involved in this disease.

However, none of these prior studies examined gene expression differences between AMD and normal eyes.

The research team discovered over 50 genes that have higher than normal levels in AMD, the top 20 of which were able to “predict” a clinical AMD diagnosis. Genes over-expressed in the RPE-choroid – a tissue complex located beneath the retina – included components of inflammatory responses, while in the retina, the researchers found genes involved in wound healing and the complement cascade, a part of the innate immune system.

They found retinal genes with expression levels that matched the disease severity for advanced stages of AMD.

Venus, Jupiter and moon in triple conjunction

Venus, Jupiter, and the moon form a sky watching treat in the evening sky on for the week of February 22, 2012, with a triple conjunction on February 25 and 26.

Venus and Jupiter have been dominating the western sky in the early evenings lately.

Venus, because it is closer to the sun than Earth, never strays far from the sun in our sky. Jupiter, being outside the Earth’s orbit, can appear anywhere along the ecliptic - the path of the sun, moon, and planets across the sky. Venus and Jupiter are gradually growing closer, and will pass each other on March 13.

The moon, meanwhile, is making its monthly trip around the Earth and will pass these two planets Saturday and Sunday this week (February 25 and 26). The moon appears close to Venus on Saturday night, and then near Jupiter on Sunday night.

The view on either night will be what astronomers call a triple conjunction, CBS News reported.

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