Macular Society funded research

DNA strandSince 1990 the Macular Society has invested over £3.8 million in 62 different research projects. Each year we invite applications for research grants and PhD studentships which are assessed by our Research Committee. 

The following research projects are currently being funded by the Macular Society. 

Professor Michel Michaelides, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology 
£168,606
Assessing retinal structure and function in Stargardt disease using advanced phenotyping in preparation for planned therapeutic intervention. The researchers will look at the observable characteristics of eyes with Stargardt disease to determine how retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells and photoreceptor cells are involved in various forms of Stargardt disease. 

Josie Grant, Heriot Watt University 
£10,000
How eccentric viewing training may help wayfinding and outdoor mobility in the built environment for people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The research will focus on navigating the built environment and whether eccentric viewing training (Skills for seeing) makes this easier for people with AMD. It will also measure whether the training improves people’s self confidence and has a positive impact on physical activity levels and quality of life. 

Professor Paul Bishop, University of Manchester
£166,602
Establishment of a national eye tissue archive for AMD research. This work will retrieve tissue from 1,000 pairs of eyes and make it available to researchers in the UK for at least the next 10 years to provide a unique and important resource for future research into new treatments for AMD. 

Dr Amanda Carr, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
£170,000
Using induced pluripotent stem cells to investigate Best associated macular degeneration. Dr Carr aims to create models of Best disease using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to define the role of the gene BEST1 in the progression of Best disease and potentially identify new treatment pathways. 

Dr Aparna Lakkaraju, University of Wisconsin-Madison
£126,000
Modulating mitochondrial dynamics in the retinal pigment epithelium as a therapeutic strategy for macular dystrophies. The aims of this study are to first investigate mitochondrial functions in the healthy retinal pigment epithelium and examine how these are affected by vitamin A metabolites and oxidative stress. Secondly, the researchers will investigate how efficiently the retinal pigment epithelium removes damaged mitochondria, under normal and stressed conditions.

Professor Paul Foster, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
£53,510
Realising the potential of the UK Biobank Research Resource. The aim of the project is to establish the frequency and characteristics of early AMD (separated by drusen type) in the UK Biobank cohort and relate this to genetic, lifestyle and biochemical data.

Dr Ruth Hogg, Queen’s University Belfast
£82,194
Reticular pseudodrusen in AMD: a population based study. This project will investigate how common reticular pseudodrusen are within the general population, how they are associated with the features of AMD and what other health problems or lifestyle factors they commonly exist with.

Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka, University of Southampton 
£94,204
Study of molecular mechanisms driving RPE dysfunction in patients from different stages of AMD and cellular rescue as a potential future therapy. This project aims to establish the importance of lysosomal and mitochondrial impairment in AMD. The researchers will use living RPE cells sourced directly from AMD patients who have donated their eyes to The Bristol Eye Bank.

Professor Andrew Dick, University of Bristol
£99,088
Epigenetic regulation in the pathogenesis of AMD. The project will investigate a protein in the eye and whether it protects RPE cells from the cell loss that happens with AMD. It will also look at whether the protein prevents the unwanted side effects of the retina trying to heal itself, such as scarring or new blood vessels forming.

Professor Luminita Paraoan, University of Liverpool
£167,722
Gene editing of AMD risk factor in retinal pigment epithelial cells: could modulation of proteolytic control lead to new therapeutic interventions for AMD? This project will study a protein called cystatin C and a mutated version known as ‘variant B cystatin C’. People who carry the mutated form of the protein are at an increased risk of developing AMD at an earlier age.

Dr John-Paul Taylor, Newcastle University
£92,998
Treating visual hallucinations in people with macular degeneration: a non-invasive stimulation study. This project is aiming to determine whether non-invasive transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) can be used to treat Charles Bonnet Syndrome in people with macular degeneration.

Professor Robin Walker, Royal Holloway University of London
£44,676
Investigating reading with a loss of central vision. Presenting text dynamically on an electronic display has an advantage over conventional page format in allowing large text to be presented. The aim of this project is to provide an evaluation of reading performance among people with AMD when using text presented on a moving electronic display, as opposed to a static screen or printed page. A second theme will examine the effectiveness of using an iPad or tablet with scrolling text as a device for training people in the eccentric reading technique. This will inform and improve the training offered by the Macular Society.

Dr Pádriag Mulholland, Ulster University
£99,333
Exploring the spatiotemporal summation of microperimetric stimuli in AMD. The aim of this project is to explore how the visual system collects light energy over space and time and how this can be incorporated into light sensitivity tests to monitor the onset and progression of AMD. By establishing the best spots of light for use in microperimetric tests for AMD, vision changes may be detected earlier, progression of AMD may be more effectively monitored and quality of life in AMD predicted more accurately.

Dr Clare Thetford, University of Central Lancashire and Dr Bethan Collins, University of Liverpool
£68,597
Identifying best practice in the delivery of peer support groups: learning from the lived experience of Macular Society support groups. The aim of this study is to understand what elements of peer support groups work best through understanding individuals’ experiences of taking part. This will enable best practice to be developed to maximise the benefit of group participation. The study will also identify barriers that limit participation in groups.

Professor Paul Bishop, University of Manchester
£169,318
Development and utilisation of Manchester Eye Tissue Repository (METR) to elucidate the molecular pathology of AMD. This proposal aims to continue to develop the METR and to use some of the collected tissue and tissue extracts to answer key research questions. The aim is to compare genetic material and proteins from eye tissue with high genetic risk with similar tissue from eyes with low genetic risk.

Professor Majlinda Lako, Newcastle University
£169,845
Understanding the role of autophagy in the pathogenesis of AMD using a patient-specific iPSC model. The project aims to evaluate two important interlinked factors in the origin and development of AMD, namely complement activation and impairment of autophagy, a natural intracellular process that deals with the destruction and removal of old cell components. The project will use a robust model of AMD created in a laboratory from induced pluripotent stem cells, which displays key features typical of AMD. Identifying if cellular recycling is an underlying cause of AMD could lead to new drug treatments to treat the disease directly in its early stages preventing its progression and later consequences.