Cellular Origin of Eye Calcification

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Sergio Bertazzo
  • Institute: University College London (UCL)
  • Region: London
  • Start date: April 2023
  • End Date: March 2024
  • Priority: Understanding
  • Eye Category: AMD
Brief plain language 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

Calcification – a build up of calcium salts in the body tissue – typically occurs in bone formation. Sometimes, this can occur in soft tissue, resulting in the tissue hardening. This process is demonstrated across a range of diseases including AMD.

There is currently a lack of research into the mechanisms associated with calcification in one part of the eye, the outer blood-retina barrier. This calcification process can cause AMD to progress and result in irreversible change – demonstrating an opportunity for intervention.

Aim of the research project

To improve understanding of calcification in the eye, specifically, the outer blood-retina barrier. This will be investigated by identifying minerals, cellular changes, and cell markers associated with bone formation.

Key procedures/objectives

Using eye samples from three groups of people - those with AMD, without AMD, and a genetic disorder characterised by calcium deposits (PXE) - the research team will:

  1. Analyse eye tissue samples at different stages of AMD using microscopy techniques.
  2. Analyse eye samples from AMD patients at different stages of calcification using microscopy techniques.
  3. Identify the location and microenvironment in calcification formation, as well as structures and components associated with tissue minerals.
  4. Explore osteogenic (bone) and calcification markers in the eye tissue samples.
Potential impact on people with sight loss

This research could improve the understanding of an osteogenic and calcification process happening in the eye during AMD. If successful, a new path of research could be explored, which may be the basis for establishing new prevention and treatment methods for AMD in the future.