News at Medicine - June 2012 - Funding for research on macular degeneration

Funding for research on macular degeneration
June 27, 2012
Drs. Robert Gendron and Hélène Paradis, professors in the Division of BioMedical Sciences, head up one of seven Canadian research teams that will receive new funding from the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Canada’s largest funder of vision research.

The researchers will receive $210,000 over three years to study the underlying causes of wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and the changes in protein production in the aging eye which cause blood vessels to leak fluid in people diagnosed with this condition. By understanding the underlying causes of wet AMD, this team hopes to facilitate the design of treatments which could prevent or reverse the disease.

Wet AMD is one of the leading causes of blindness in western populations. Dr. Gendron said this disease is particularly relevant in Newfoundland and Labrador. “This is because our population is becoming skewed toward aging and our diabetes rates are thought to be higher than the national average.”

“Wet AMD is a neovascular disease,” he explained. “This means it involves the overgrowth and disregulation of blood vessels in the retinal tissues of the eye. New improved therapies and pharmaceuticals are needed to prevent and treat these central retinal diseases.”

Wet AMD affects about 10 per cent of all people with AMD.  It is more severe than the early and intermediate stages of the dry form and happens when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. These new blood vessels can be fragile and leak blood and fluid; the blood and fluid cause the macula to swell and damage occurs rapidly.

Drs. Gendron and Paradis have identified the novel protein Tubedown and are characterizing the larger complex it associates with as a factor involved in the control of the stability of retinal blood vessels. “We have found that loss of Tubedown from retinal blood vessels is an important predisposing factor for the progression of neovascular retinopathy,” said Dr. Gendron. “Through our research we hope to better understand the mechanisms underlying Tubedown loss and how such loss leads to disturbance of the stability of retinal blood vessels, particularly during retinal aging. If we can define the other proteins involved in Tuedown loss in wet AMD, we can then design new agents and strategies to improve treatment options for wet AMD.”