The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is a single layer of cells at the back of the eye next to the retina. The health of RPE cells, and their ability to support the nerve cells of the retina, depend on well-functioning RPE cell metabolism as a source of energy.

Put another way, RPE cellular energy production is central to the maintenance of healthy retina cells and the gatekeepers of cell death.

Scientists are trying to understand how an imbalance between how much energy the RPE cells need and how much energy the cells actually produce contributes to macular degeneration and its progression. Through research, we are looking at ways to restore health to the aging eye by improving cellular metabolism.

BrightFocus Grantees are currently looking at the decline in cellular energy production in the RPE and the mitochondria, which are the cell’s “powerhouse” for energy production.


A blood sample under a microscope.

The Powerhouse of the Cell

Mitochondria are structures within cells that convert the energy from food into a form that cells can use. Each cell contains hundreds to thousands of mitochondria, which float inside the cells.