Stopping the build-up of toxic waste in dry AMD

Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka, University of Southampton - £100,000

Large levels of waste build up is seen in cells of the retina in patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This is because the cells are unable to break down and remove this toxic waste. This may be a factor in cell death in dry AMD. Dr Arjuna Ratnayaka at University of Southampton is looking to better understand this build up, and find treatments to increase its removal.

What is the problem?

One of the earliest signs of dry AMD is the build up of toxic waste in the cells at the back of the eye. In healthy cells this toxic waste, called lipofuscin, is broken down by lysosomes, part of the cell’s waste removal system. In AMD it is shown that this lipofuscin stops being able to be correctly broken down and removed. It therefore builds up inside the cells. It is thought this accumulation may lead to the early death of retinal cells.

What are they doing?

This research is looking at ways to activate the waste removal system in the retina, to boost the breakdown of lipofuscin. A PhD student will also investigate the factors that cause the increase in waste and lipofuscin accumulation. The project aims to understand how to keep the retina healthy and functioning longer to stop the vision loss that dry AMD causes.

How can this help?

This research should lead to a better understanding of the causes and possible treatments for dry AMD. Lysosomes are known to play a vital role in retinal cell function. However, there is still a lot we don’t know about how and why they stop functioning correctly. As lipofuscin accumulation is an early sign of dry AMD, this may pave the way for early stage treatment for dry AMD before vision is lost.