Cholesterol-lowering eye drops may soon have another use: fighting blindness associated with macular degeneration. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine found that immune cells known as macrophages can become "bloated" with fatty deposits. The resulting inflammation can cause new blood vessels to form; these vessels are linked to so-called "wet" macular degeneration, which can lead to blindness.
Macrophages typically act as a guard against fatty deposits, but as they get older, they can stop working correctly—ultimately doing more harm than good. "Instead of being protective, they accelerate the disease," a researcher tells the BBC. Now, scientists must study "whether vision loss caused by macular degeneration could be prevented with cholesterol-lowering eye drops or other medications that might prevent the build-up of lipids beneath the retina," the researcher says. (Read more cholesterol stories.)