Novel Mechanism for Retinal Deposit Formation in Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Richard Thompson, PhD
University of Maryland School of Medicine (Baltimore, MD)

Co-Principal Investigators

Imre Lengyel, PhD
University College London
Year Awarded:
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2016
Macular Degeneration
Award Amount:
Grant Reference ID:
Award Type:
Award Region:
US Northeastern

This grant is made possible in part by a bequest from the estate of June Mae Metzger.

Richard Thompson, PhD

Role of Zinc and HAP in Inducing Sub-Retinal Pigmented Epithelium Deposits and Age-Related Macular Degeneration


We have discovered what appears to be an early step in the process of developing deposits known as drusen in the aging retina, which can lead to age-related macular degeneration (AMD). We believe that zinc and inflammation are involved, and have developed a method for visualizing when the step has occurred in the intact eye. The thrust of our project is to see how zinc and inflammation are involved in this step, and how early and broadly the step may occur in ordinary eyes: does the step happen at 40 years of age, or at 60 years of age, and does it occur in everybody? We anticipate our visualization method may be usable as a screening test for AMD (patent pending), and that our improved understanding of how AMD develops may lead to new, early treatments.

About the Researcher

Richard B. Thompson, PhD, is currently associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD. He was raised outside Chicago, received a BA in biology at Northwestern University. and a PhD in biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and completed postdoctoral training with Joseph Lakowicz, PhD, at the University of Maryland, before moving to the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. Dr. Thompson subsequently joined the faculty at the University of Maryland, where his research focuses mainly on understanding the biology and pathology of metal ions, and developing new optical methods to study them and their relationship to disease. He has produced more than 110 publications and 14 patents.


 Thompson RB, Reffatto V, Bundy JG, Kortvely E, Flinn JM, Lanzirotti A, Jones EA, McPhail DS, Fearn S, Boldt K, Ueffing M, Ratu SG, Pauleikhoff L, Bird AC, Lengyel I. Identification of hydroxyapatite spherules provides new insight into subretinal pigment epithelial deposit formation in the aging eye. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Feb 3;112(5):1565-70. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1413347112. Erratum in: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 Jul 21;112(29):E3971. PubMed PMID: 25605911; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4321314. PubMed Icon Google Scholar Icon

Pilgrim MG, Lengyel I, Lanzirotti A, Newville M, Fearn S, Emri E, Knowles JC, Messinger JD, Read RW, Guidry C, Curcio CA. Subretinal Pigment Epithelial Deposition of Drusen Components Including Hydroxyapatite in a Primary Cell Culture Model. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2017 Feb 1;58(2):708-719. doi: 10.1167/iovs.16-21060. PubMed Icon Google Scholar Icon

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