Protecting RPE and Photoreceptors by Targeting a Novel Nuclear Receptor in Dry AMD

Jing Chen, PhD
Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School (Boston, MA)
Year Awarded:
2017
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020
Disease:
Macular Degeneration
Award Amount:
$160,000
Grant Reference ID:
M2017161
Award Type:
Standard
Award Region:
US Northeastern
Jing Chen, PhD

Targeting Rev-erbα to Preserve RPE and Photoreceptor Cells in AMD

Summary

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a major cause of irreversible vision loss in the elderly. It results from the death of cells critical for vision: retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE) and photoreceptor cells. Currently, there is no treatment to prevent or slow the loss of these cells in dry AMD patients. Our work aims to investigate mechanistically the molecular processes through which dysregulation of factors controlling oxidative stress impairs RPE and photoreceptor cell metabolism and their survival in AMD.

Details

AMD, a major cause of irreversible vision loss in the elderly, results from death of cells critical for vision: RPE and photoreceptor cells. These cells are interdependent, as RPE provides nutritional support to allow photoreceptors to respond to light. Currently, there is no treatment to prevent or slow the loss of these cells in dry AMD patients. This work aims to investigate, mechanistically, the molecular processes related to dysregulation of factors that normally protect the eye against oxidative stress, thus impairing RPE and photoreceptor cellular metabolism and their survival in AMD. Novel activators of this molecular pathway will be evaluated in a pre-clinical animal model of AMD to determine if treatment is effective in preventing or slowing the development of AMD-like pathologies. Findings from this work will identify a novel drug target for developing potential therapies for preventing cell death and preserving vision in dry AMD.

About the Researcher

Dr. Chen is an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She received her PhD degree from Boston University and completed her postdoctoral training in ophthalmology at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Chen’s previous work focused on retinal vascular biology to understand the causes and identify potential therapies to treat pathologic blood vessel growth in eye diseases, including the wet form of AMD. More recently, her lab started working on the mechanisms that link oxidative stress and photoreceptor loss and dysfunction, with the goal of identifying ways to target the underlying processes to prevent photoreceptor and RPE loss in dry AMD.

Personal Story

I started working on visual neuroscience in graduate school, where I was amazed by the remarkably beautiful, intricate and accurate sensory system of vision. After completing my PhD thesis on photoreceptor visual signaling, I decided to pursue postdoctoral training and initiate independent studies in more clinically relevant translational eye research in order to study the causes and find treatments for eye diseases, including retinopathies and retinal degeneration. Having a family member diagnosed with AMD, I witnessed firsthand how badly AMD affects a patient’s ability to read, watch TV, and go on with daily tasks. I hope that through research we can find ways to protect the retinal neurons from gradual death, and thereby preserve vision to improve AMD patients’ quality of life.

Generous support from BrightFocus Foundation makes it possible for us to carry out this proposed project, and to work towards the common goal of treating/preventing AMD. For that, I am deeply grateful.

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