Cell recycling and macular degeneration

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight / National Eye Research Centre Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Mr Martin McKibbin
  • Institute: St James University Hospital Leeds
  • Region: North West
  • Start date: December 2016
  • End Date: April 2017
  • Priority: Treatment
  • Eye Category: Inherited retinal


Autophagy is a process through which cells gather up waste material and recycle the parts. It’s a vital process that means cells can survive, especially in times of stress.

Some features of ageing, such as wrinkles and hearing loss are due to less autophagy happening as time goes on. This leads to waste material building-up inside cells. Problems with autophagy have been linked to cancer, dementia and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Glitches in genes that are involved in autophagy have recently been shown to cause a small number of inherited macular dystrophies. In this project the research team will study the effect of specific drugs on autophagy using skin cells taken from patients with these macular dystrophies.

The first step will be to work out the best way to show autophagy activity in cells growing in the lab. This could eventually lead to a treatment for these conditions and perhaps for AMD too.