Developing a model of late-stage AMD

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Matteo Rizzi
  • Institute: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Region: North West
  • Start date: January 2023
  • End Date: December 2023
  • Priority: Understanding
  • Eye Category: AMD
Brief Lay Background

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), causes loss of central vision because of damage to the macula – a tiny collection of light-sensitive cells found within the retina at the back of the eye.

AMD is the most common cause of permanent and severe sight loss in the UK, affecting around 600,000 people – this number is expected to more than double by 2050.

What problem/knowledge gap does it help address

Dry AMD is the most common type of age-related macular degeneration. It is caused by a build-up of waste and thinning of the retina, which causes it to function less effectively.

Unfortunately, there are currently no effective treatments that can help slow down or prevent dry AMD from progressing to late-stage blinding disease (also called ‘geographic atrophy’). 

Research into dry AMD has been hindered by a lack of suitable experimental models for studying the disease and testing potential new treatments.

Aim of the research project

To develop a new experimental model of geographic atrophy.

Key procedures/objectives
  1. Develop a mouse model of geographic atrophy by depleting specific cells (called pigmented epithelial cells) underneath a localised area of the retina – by injecting a virus containing the instructions to make a protein that will cause these cells to die.
  2. Study the changes to the retina that occur – to look for key features that can be related to the changes seen in tissue samples collected from people with geographic atrophy. 
Potential impact on people with sight loss

This model has great potential to galvanise research into dry AMD, paving the way for improving the understanding of the biology of the disease – and the development of effective new treatments to prevent or reverse sight loss in patients.