Soft drusen in age-related macular degeneration: Biology and targeting via the oil spill strategies

Academic Article


  • AMD is a major cause of legal blindness in older adults approachable through multidisciplinary research involving human tissues and patients. AMD is a vascular-metabolic-inflammatory disease, in which two sets of extracellular deposits, soft drusen/ basal linear deposit (BLinD) and subretinal drusenoid deposit (SDD), confer risk for end-stages of atrophy and neovascularization. Understanding how deposits form can lead to insights for new preventions and therapy. The topographic correspondence of BLinD and SDD with cones and rods, respectively, suggest newly realized exchange pathways among outer retinal cells and across Bruch’s membrane and the subretinal space, in service of highly evolved, eye-specific physiology. This review focuses on soft drusen/BLinD, summarizing evidence that a major ultrastructural component is large apolipoprotein B,E-containing, cholesterol-rich lipoproteins secreted by the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) that offload unneeded lipids of dietary and outer segment origin to create an atherosclerosis-like progression in the subRPE-basal lamina space. Clinical observations and an RPE cell culture system combine to suggest that soft drusen/BLinD form when secretions of functional RPE back up in the subRPE-basal lamina space by impaired egress across aged Bruch’s membrane-choriocapillary endothelium. The soft drusen lifecycle includes growth, anterior migration of RPE atop drusen, then collapse, and atrophy. Proof-of-concept studies in humans and animal models suggest that targeting the ‘‘Oil Spill in Bruch’s membrane’’ offers promise of treating a process in early AMD that underlies progression to both end-stages. A companion article addresses the antecedents of soft drusen within the biology of the macula.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Curcio CA
  • Start Page

  • AMD160
  • End Page

  • AMD181
  • Volume

  • 59
  • Issue

  • 4