The oxygen supply chain and wet AMD

Research details

  • Type of funding: MRC / Fight for Sight Clinical Research Training Fellowship
  • Grant Holder: Mr Sidath Liyanage
  • Institute: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Region: London
  • Start date: July 2012
  • End Date: June 2015
  • Priority:
  • Eye Category:


Age-related macular degeneration, also known as AMD, is the most common cause of sight loss in industrialised countries. More than half a million people are affected in the UK. This serious condition affects the macula - the part of the retina which deals with seeing central vision, colours and fine detail.

There are two main types of AMD, known as 'dry' and 'wet'. In wet AMD, unhealthy blood vessels grow behind the macula and can bleed or leak. This quickly causes loss of central vision. About 1 in 10 people with AMD have the wet form.

In wet AMD, the eye produces a molecule known as 'vascular endothelial growth factor' or VEGF. It encourages the growth of these blood vessels.

Anti-VEGF treatments, such as Lucentis, can help but are not completely effective. They also mean repeated eye injections and there is risk of side effects.

VEGF is important for eye development and maintaining healthy blood vessels. But we don’t know exactly what causes AMD or why unhealthy amounts of VEGF are produced.

We do know that VEGF and other substances in the body are controlled by switching various genes on or off. One of these genes is called ‘hypoxia inducible factor’ or HIF.

In this project the researchers are using various ways to switch the HIF gene on and off, to find out what this does to VEGF and blood vessel growth. The results should help make it easier to develop effective treatments for wet AMD.