Purpose To determine whether age-related macular degeneration (AMD) severity or the frequency of retinal pigment epithelium mitochondrial DNA lesions differ in human donor eyes that have undergone cataract surgery compared to phakic eyes. Methods Eyes from human donors aged ≥ 55 years were obtained from the Minnesota Lions Eye Bank. Cataract surgery status was obtained from history provided to Eye Bank personnel by family members at the time of tissue procurement. Donor eyes were graded for AMD severity using the Minnesota Grading System. Quantitative PCR was performed on DNA isolated from macular punches of retinal pigment epithelium to quantitate the frequency of mitochondrial DNA lesions in the donor tissue. Univariable and multivariable analyses were performed to evaluate for associations between (1) cataract surgery and AMD severity and (2) cataract surgery and mitochondrial DNA lesion frequency. Results A total of 157 subjects qualified for study inclusion. Multivariable analysis with age, sex, smoking status, and cataract surgery status showed that only age was associated with AMD grade. Multivariable analysis with age, sex, smoking status, and cataract surgery status showed that none of these factors were associated with retinal pigment epithelium mitochondrial DNA lesion frequency. Conclusions In this study of human donor eyes, neither retinal pigment epithelium mitochondrial DNA damage nor the stage of AMD severity are independently associated with cataract surgery after adjusting for other AMD risk factors. These new pathologic and molecular findings provide evidence against a relationship between cataract surgery and AMD progression and support the idea that cataract surgery is safe in the setting of AMD.
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