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Academy of Medical Sciences grant to Dr Sofia Theodoropoulou

2 November 2017

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of irreversible blindness. Current treatments are available only for the very late stages of the wet form of AMD (caused by the aberrant growth of new vessels-angiogenesis) and only improve vision in 30% of those patients.

A project looking into this, entitled The role of mast cells in the pathophysiology of age-related macular degeneration, was awarded £29,992.

There is a crucial unmet need to understand processes early in the disease to lead to pathways that can be exploited for new therapies. The aim of this research project is to uncover such pathways, and investigate a protein called interleukin-33 (IL-33) that orchestrates inflammation in tissues and its role in AMD. Our early data shows that IL-33 inhibits unwanted effects of the eyes response to inflammation by altering tissue remodeling (such as scarring). Our experiments will deliver insight into how IL-33 exerts a protective effect, and specifically how IL-33 exerts its effect by altering the behavior of inflammatory cells that are found in the back of the eye (retina and choroid where AMD targets), to maintain tissue health and subvert AMD progression. Our experiments will inform patient care in the future in two ways: 1. By understanding how mast cells regulate angiogenesis and tissue remodeling, to identify molecular targets for drug exploitation. 2. By augmenting and modulating mast cell responses by IL-33 treatment may allow us to reverse tissue damage, benefiting patients with AMD. Our ultimate goal through research programs is to reduce the burden of AMD pathology at earlier stages and thus increase the lifetime of normal visual function in patients with AMD.

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