Macular Society funded research

Since 1987 the Macular Society has invested over £5.1 million in 73 different research projects. Each year we invite applications for research grants and PhD studentships which are assessed by our Research Committee.

Line of professionals

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

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 for at least the next 10 years to provide a unique and important resource for future research into new treatments for AMD. 

Dr Amanda-Jayne Carr, University College London Institute of Ophthalmology

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

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, University College London 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 retinal pigment epithelium 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.

Professor Robin Walker, Royal Holloway University of London

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

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

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

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

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.

Professor Graeme Black, University of Manchester


A comprehensive molecular analysis and iPSC model of early adult-onset macular degeneration (EOMD) to better understand AMD. EOMD affects people in the same way as AMD but at a younger age. The aim of the study is to understand the genetic and molecular mechanisms underpinning EOMD, including the role of the protein FHL-1. They will also investigate how retinal stem cells made from patients with EOMD behave and whether we can use them as a model of AMD. 

Dr Amanda-Jayne Carr, University College London Institute of Ophthalmology


Investigating CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing as a therapy for Autosomal Dominant Bestrophinopathies. The aim of this project is to test whether CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can be used as a treatment for autosomal dominant bestrophinopathies. In an autosomal dominant condition a faulty gene from one parent overrides the healthy gene from the other parent. The faulty gene creates a toxic protein which damages the cells of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) leading to sight loss. In this project they aim to cure dominant bestrophinopathies by using gene editing to cut out the faulty gene and leave the healthy one untouched. They will test whether it is working as planned using patients' skin cells, as well as stem cells and RPE cells created from patient skin cells.

Professor Majlinda Lako, Newcastle University


Exploiting the role of exosomes to treat AMD and provide biomarkers for early diagnosis of disease. The project will investigate whether exosomes, small bubble-like structures released by RPE cells, play a role in development of AMD and whether any drugs known to affect exosome production elsewhere in the body can be used to change the production of RPE exosomes. This study also aims to identify if specific forms of exosomes can act as markers of AMD and potentially to identify people at particular risk of losing vision.

Dr Rob Collin, Radboud University, The Netherlands

£119,170 Co-funded with Retina UK

Natural exon skipping in ABCA4 mRNA and its modulation as a novel generic therapy for Stargardt disease. Stargardt diesease is usually caused by mutations in the ABCA4 gene, which contains the instructions for making a specific protein. In some people with later-onset Stargardt disease, bits of genetic code are mistakenly 'skipped', the resulting protein is not normal and does not function as it should. This project aims to understand how and why bits of the gene are 'skipped' and prevent the misreading of the gene that causes damaging protein to be produced. The project will also look at the whole ABCA4 gene to work out what is causing pieces to be skipped and use manmade molecules to try to prevent it happening.

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