Creating a blood test to detect early AMD

Prof Majlinda Lako, Newcastle University - £199,882

Research led by Professor Lako at Newcastle University has previously shown that there is an increased level of a protein in retinal cells at the back of the eye, in patients with age-related macular disease (AMD). This work, also funded by the Macular Society is being expanded to better understand this protein’s role in AMD.

What is the problem?

A common test to diagnose AMD is an OCT scan, which allows us to see the layers of the retina, the area at the back of the eye. Large numbers of ‘drusen’ waste deposits are usually seen as a sign of the early stages of AMD. However, drusen are a natural response to the eye ageing and can often be found in patients who never get late stage AMD and sight loss, so this test is not perfect.

What are they doing?

Professor Lako’s previous project, funded by the Macular Society, found new differences between healthy retinal cells and retinal cells from patients with AMD. The AMD cells had higher levels of a specific protein, which is carried between cells in exosomes. These small bubbles produced by the cells transport information and could be key to the development of AMD.

This research is looking to further understand the role of these exosomes and the protein they contain. Looking into why they form, what they do, and see if we can detect them in blood, so we can use this to diagnose AMD.


How can this help?

Detecting early AMD may allow better monitoring and therefore better treatment. Detecting those with early AMD could also lead to treatments designed to stop AMD progressing before sight is lost.

This research may also lead to new treatments focusing on stopping the production of these toxic exosomes, which may work to help those with AMD.

Find out more about Professor Lako's work