Macular Degeneration Research Program

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an irreversible destruction of the central area of the retina, called the macula. The retina is the  light sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eye and transmits visual information via the optic nerve to the brain. Macular degeneration leads to loss of the sharp, fine-detail, “straight-ahead” vision required for reading, driving, recognizing faces, and seeing the world in color, for example.

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss and irreversible blindness in Americans age 60 years and older and advanced AMD is a leading cause of irreversible blindness and visual impairment in the world. As many as 11 million Americans have some form of macular degeneration, including both early and later stages of the wet and dry forms. This number is expected to double by 2050.

Everything you need to manage macular degeneration

Program History

Since 1999, Macular Degeneration Research (MDR) has awarded more than $21.5 million to support research into the causes and potential prevention strategies and treatments of macular degeneration disease. MDR is currently supporting 40 biomedical researcher projects.

Research We Have Funded

A few examples:

  • Investigations of whether an uncontrolled immune response to a person's damaged cells causes the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • Strategies to make waste removal more efficient in the retina, which may lead to the development of a new therapy for dry AMD.
  • Exploring how tiny pieces of genetic material called microRNAs could have a big role in AMD.

Learn more about the research we currently fund and the research we have funded over the years. 

Important Breakthroughs

Promising recent results by earlier BrightFocus grant awardees include:

  • Researchers discovered seven new genes associated with the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration.
  • Targeting cholesterol buildup slowed macular degeneration vision loss in mice.
  • A chemical "switch" could one day serve as a light-detecting substitute in eyes that have lost their light-detecting retina cells.
  • Alcohol intake may increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
  • A new therapeutic target was identified for dry AMD.
  • Breakthrough findings are increasing our understanding of how dry AMD causes blindness.
  • The discovery of adult stem cells lying dormant in the retina may lead to future treatments of macular degeneration.
  • Controlling a protein called IL-18 could prevent progression to later stages of macular degeneration.

With further research, these and other discoveries may lead to new treatments and ways of managing risk factors.

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