New funding to tackle major cause of sight loss
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of severe sight loss in the UK, accounting for more than half of people registered as severely sight impaired.
Now, a new research project co-funded by sight loss charities Fight for Sight and National Eye Research Centre aims to break new ground The University of Manchester.
In AMD, the macula – a small part of the retina at the back of the eye – starts to degenerate, affecting the central area of vision. It is known that both genes and environmental factors play a part in the risk of developing AMD. Alterations to sections of DNA that encode specific genes can change the amount or type of proteins made in the body. However, it is not known if ‘epigenetics’ (long-term changes that are not caused by a change in the DNA sequence) are involved.
In collaboration with researchers in The Netherlands, a team led by Dr Simon Clark from the University’s Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences will compare DNA from 2,000 people with AMD and 2,000 without, to look for epigenetic activity. “This European collaboration is in a unique position to study the role of epigenetics in AMD,” said Dr Clark. “It will increase our understanding of the mechanisms underpinning AMD and could result in the identification of novel therapeutic targets.”
“Partnering with National Eye Research Centre to co-fund this project is an important way to stimulate clinical research,” said Dr Dolores M Conroy, Director of Research at Fight for Sight. “We’re also pleased to be able to directly address priorities that matter to people with sight loss, as identified during the Sight Loss and Vision Priority-Setting Partnership.”
Mike Daw, Chief Executive at National Eye Research Centre, added “Eye research remains a critically underfunded category of medical research and we believe that collaborating in this way ensures that these important research projects, which might otherwise not receive funding, can now offer real hope to people with sight loss.”
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