Thyroid Hormone Regulation in Retinal Degeneration

Xi-Qin Ding, PhD
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (Oklahoma City, OK)


Goldis Malek, PhD
Duke University, Albert Eye Research Institute (Durham, NC)
Year Awarded:
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020
Macular Degeneration
Award Amount:
Grant Reference ID:
Award Type:
Award Region:
US Midwestern

Elizabeth Anderson Award recipient.

Xi-Qin Ding, PhD

Thyroid Hormone Signaling Regulation of Retinal Pigment Epithelium Viability


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is characterized by a progressive death of retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells in the central macular region of the retina and subsequent degeneration of light-sensitive neurons (photoreceptors). Oxidative stress/damage to the RPE is recognized as the core pathogenic lesion of the disease. In this project, we study the role of thyroid hormone in RPE oxidative stress/damage and investigate whether suppression of thyroid hormone activity protects RPE against oxidative damage.



Thyroid hormone regulates cell proliferation, differentiation, and metabolism. In the eye, thyroid hormone regulates retinal development and photoreceptor viability. Recently, thyroid hormone signaling has been implicated in the pathogenesis of AMD. The population-based studies suggest that higher free serum thyroid hormone values are associated with increased risk of AMD. The objective of this project is to understand the role of thyroid hormone in AMD through oxidative damage to the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). We investigate the hypothesis that thyroid hormone promotes oxidative stress/lesions of RPE, and that suppression of thyroid hormone activity protects RPE. We examine the effects of thyroid hormone activation on survival/death of mouse RPE. We also evaluate the effects of thyroid hormone suppression on RPE viability in mouse models of oxidative damage. We anticipate that completion of the proposed study will shed light on thyroid hormone regulation of AMD pathogenesis, which is essential to determine whether suppression of thyroid hormone signaling locally, in the retina, represents a novel strategy for RPE protection and management of AMD

About the Researcher

Dr. Ding is a professor of Cell Biology and holds the Joanne I. Moore Professorship of Pharmacology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She obtained her PhD from the University of Lund (Sweden) and received post-doctoral training at the Mayo Clinic and Foundation, MN. The primary focus of Dr. Ding’s laboratory research is to understand the mechanism(s) of retinal degeneration in order to identify novel therapeutic strategies. Dr. Ding has published over 50 research articles in peer-reviewed journals, and her research has been supported by the National Institute of Health, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the Oklahoma Center for Advancement in Science and Technology, in addition to BrightFocus Foundation.

Personal Story

I have been an active vision researcher for over sixteen years, investigating the mechanism(s) of retinal degeneration. The clinical findings showing the potential link between thyroid hormone level and incidence of AMD inspired me to explore the role of thyroid hormone signaling in AMD lesions. As a vision/retinal degeneration researcher, I have a strong desire to establish a research program with an important translational component that will contribute to treat or halt the progression of the blinding diseases. I am extremely grateful that the BrightFocus Foundation provided me the opportunity to fulfill that mission. I am also extremely grateful to the generous donors who support the BrightFocus Foundation. Without this support, the important research aimed at curing blinding diseases, by many researchers around the world, would not happen. I hope our work supported by BrightFocus Foundation brings us a step closer to effective treatment of AMD.

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