Human retinal cadmium accumulation as a factor in the etiology of age-related macular degeneration

N. K. Wills, N. Kalariya, V. M. Sadagopa Ramanujam, J. R. Lewis, S. Haji Abdollahi, A. Husain, F. J.G.M. van Kuijk

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    34 Scopus citations


    Cadmium is a naturally occurring, highly toxic, metallic element. It pollutes the environment as a result of industrial activity and accumulates in human tissues with a long biological half-life. Cadmium content has been demonstrated to increase in human retinal tissues as a function of age and tobacco smokers have approximately twice as much cadmium in retinal tissues than non-smokers. Smoking is also a key environmental risk factor for the retinal disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Recent studies have shown that urinary cadmium levels (a measure of Cd body burden) are higher in smokers who have AMD. We now report the Cd measurements in human retinal tissues from eyes afflicted with AMD compared to non-diseased eyes (controls) from age-matched donors. Human donor eyes frozen under argon gas were assessed for AMD severity using color stereoscopic fundus photographs and the Minnesota Grading System. Cadmium, zinc and, copper levels were measured in retinal tissues (neural retina, retinal pigment epithelium and choroid) using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and graphite furnace spectrophotometry and values were normalized to tissue protein levels. Higher Cd levels were found in the neural retina and RPE for eyes afflicted with AMD compared to controls in males, differences were not statistically significant in females. The results indicate that higher retinal cadmium burdens are associated with the presence of AMD at least in males and suggest possible gender differences in the metabolism of metals in the human retina.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)79-87
    Number of pages9
    JournalExperimental Eye Research
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jun 15 2009


    • RPE
    • age-related macular degeneration
    • aging
    • cadmium
    • choroid
    • copper
    • gender
    • human
    • retina
    • zinc

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Ophthalmology
    • Sensory Systems
    • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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