Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a problem with the retina. It happens when a part of the retina called the macula is damaged. With AMD, you lose your central vision. You cannot see fine details, whether you are looking at something close or far but your peripheral (side) vision will still be normal. There are two forms of AMD – dry and wet. Dry AMD is quite common and 80% of patients with AMD have the dry version. Dry AMD occurs when the parts of the macula get thinner with age and tiny clumps of protein called drusen grow which causes the loss of central vision. Currently, there is no way to treat dry AMD. Wet AMD is less common but far more serious as new blood vessels grow under the retina. These vessels may leak blood, causing scarring of the macula.  Vision diminishes more quickly with Wet AMD than dry AMD.

AMD is a focus of several research teams in the Department of Ophthalmology. The Charles and Louella Snyder Laboratory for Retinal Regeneration focuses its research on ocular development, disease and regeneration, utilizing a zebrafish model as it closely resembles the structure of a human eye. However, unlike humans, zebrafish can regenerate their retinas after injury which allows the lab to study how retinal regeneration occurs and how it could potentially be replicated in a human eye.

Ian Sigal, PhD, conducts imaging and assessment research on retinal and optic nerve biomechanics to greater understand the changes that occur with the progression of AMD. Ethan Rossi, PhD, has developed innovative deep imaging systems that have the ability to detect changes in the eye years before they would be seen utilizing current testing procedures. This would allow physicians to begin treating AMD much earlier in the process and potentially help to preserve a greater amount of a patient’s sight. Debasish Sinha, PhD, studies the role of retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells in maintaining healthy vision which is critical to developing therapies to prevent, treat, or reverse vision loss caused by AMD.

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