Macular Society funded research

DNA strandSince 1990 the Macular Society has invested over £3.2 million in 57 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 
Assessing retinal structure and function in Stargardt’s disease using advanced phenotyping in preparation for planned therapeutic intervention. The researchers will look at the observable characteristics of eyes with Stargardt’s to determine how retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells and photoreceptor cells are involved in various forms of Stargardt’s disease. 

Josie Grant, Heriot Watt University 
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
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
Using induced pluripotent stem cells to investigate Best’s associated macular degeneration. Dr Carr aims to create models of Best’s disease using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to define the role of the gene BEST1 in the progression of Best’s disease and potentially identify new treatment pathways. 

Dr Anthony Vugler, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
Developing light as a tool for enhancing functionality of human stem cell derived RPE. The researchers have recently found that human stem cell (hESC) derived RPE cells are light sensitive. The aim of this project is to develop a new system using light to enhance the functional capability of hESC-RPE cells.

Mr Rob Johnston, Cheltenham General Hospital 
National Ophthalmology Database national audit of neovascular AMD care in the UK. This project aims to define current NHS benchmark standards of care and variation in the quality of care for patients receiving anti-VEGF therapy for neovascular AMD.

Professor Majlinda Lako, Newcastle University 
Assessing the feasibility of induced pluripotent stem cells to provide a disease model for AMD. This research will look into the difference between retinal cells created from patients with AMD and retinal cells from patients without AMD. The researchers will look at how well these cells function and respond to the effects of ageing and the environment.

Professor Clare Bradley, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College
Experiences of Macular Disease: follow up survey. This project will assess the impact of caring for someone with macular degeneration on the patient and the caregiver.

Dr Aparna Lakkaraju, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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
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
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 
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
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
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
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.