Development of retinal disease closely linked to intestinal flora

November 16, 2021

left: Prof. Robert Finger; right: Prof. Zeinab Abdullah (picture: Johann Saba/University Clinics Bonn)


Study on the role of intestinal flora, metabolism and immune defense in Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) receives research award


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the main cause of blindness and severe visual impairment at old age in Germany and throughout Europe. Prof. Zeinab Abdullah, member of the Cluster of Excellence and group leader at the Institute of Molecular Medicine & Experimental Immunology of the University Clinics Bonn and Prof. Robert Finger from the University Hospital Bonn are taking a closer look at immune mechanisms in AMD. The researchers investigate the interactions of intestinal flora, metabolism and immune defense. Prof. Abdullah and Prof. Finger have now received the EURETINA Medical Retina Clinical Research Award 2021 for their research project at the University of Bonn, which is endowed with 293,000 €.


AMD is a common age-related retinal disease. On average, one in three people over the age of 70 is affected by an early form. Of these, some develop advanced AMD, which often causes severe vision loss. Changes in the macula are already evident in one in four people over the age of 50. The macula is located in the center of the retina and contains the point of sharpest vision with millions of cone-shaped photoreceptors. In the early stages of the disease, metabolic deposits accumulate under the retina. "It progresses slowly over an average of ten years to late AMD," says Prof. Robert Finger, MD, associate director of the UKB Eye Clinic. "So far, however, there is no therapy that slows or stops this process."

In a new approach to derive treatment strategies, the scientists no follow the link between the development of retinal disease like AMD and the composition of the intestinal flora.


It is already known that endocrine inflammation and immune system dysfunction, including elevated inflammatory markers in the blood and reduced phagocytosis play a role in the development of AMD. Most recently, a correlation between the presence of certain bacteria in the gut, inflammatory processes and AMD could be shown. "However, all of this has not yet been considered together in a study. In order to better understand AMD, the disease stages, the intestinal flora, the metabolism as well as the inflammatory processes as part of the immune system must be comprehensively studied together," says Prof. Dr. Zeinab Abdullah. Together with Prof. Finger, she hopes to discover new biomarkers associated with increased or decreased risk of disease development.



Prof. Dr. Zeinab Abdullah,

Research Group Leader at the Institute of Molecular Medicine & Experimental Immunology

University Hospital Bonn

Phone: +49 228 287-11138