From Claudio Punzo, PhD, photo showing region of RPE cell loss.

It is generally thought that age-related macular degeneration (AMD) begins in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a single layer of cells next to the retina, whose job is to transport molecules in and out to nourish the retina and dispose of waste. The RPE’s ability to do its job can be compromised by age, oxidative stress, inflammation, and other factors causing the immune system to kick in and overact.

The retina of the eye showing the following structures: macula, blood vessels, and optic disc.
Photo of eye retina via digital retinal imaging.

The response of the RPE to all these factors seems to be a tipping point that can either defend against or lead the eye toward macular degeneration. Several BrightFocus projects are investigating this critical part of the eye, expanding our understanding of RPE and potential early treatments.