Do environmental changes to DNA play a part in the risk of getting AMD?

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight / National Eye Research Centre Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Simon Clark
  • Institute: University of Manchester
  • Region: North West
  • Start date: November 2014
  • End Date: August 2015
  • Priority: Causes
  • Eye Category: AMD


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of severe sight loss in the UK, accounting for more than half of people registered as severely sight impaired. In AMD, the macula – a small part of the light-sensitive layer of cells at the back of the eye – starts to degenerate, affecting the central area of vision.

We know that both genes and environmental factors such as smoking play a part in the risk of developing AMD. Changes to sections of the sequence of letters that make up our genes can change the amount or type of proteins made in the body. However, we don’t yet know if ‘epigenetics’ are involved. Epigenetics is the name for long-term changes to the proteins that are not caused by a change in the genetic sequence.

In this project Dr Clark and team are working together with researchers in The Netherlands to compare genetic data from 2000 people with AMD and 2000 without, to look for epigenetic activity. The aim is to find out more about what's going on under the hood of AMD and could mean we discover new targets for developing treatment.