NOTEWORTHY
 Drs. Viczian and Zuber
Andrea S. Viczian, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, and Dr. Michael E. Zuber, Associate Professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, have a new article in Development.
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Age Related Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of visual disability and legal blindness in adults.
Imagine reading with a magnifying glass held 2 inches from your face.
Treatment options to prevent its progression are very limited.
Imagin learning you cannot stop the loss of visiondue to a common but virtually disease.

Age Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, primarily affects cone photoreceptors. Unlike skin, if cone photoreceptors are damaged due to this disease, they do not regenerate. Once they are lost, they are gone forever and there is no current treatment. Our team is working toward finding cells to replace those lost and/or slowing down the degeneration of the cells that are still there.

Dr. Andrea Viczian is currently working on generating cone photoreceptors from stem cells. In collaboration with another Center for Vision Researcher, Dr. Michael Zuber, they have discovered the genetic cocktail necessary for converting cells that would normally become skin in frog into retinal stem cells. Dr. Viczian is using this technology to convert other stem cells in mice in humans into retinal cells, which could be used to replace cone cells in patients with blinding diseases.

Dr. Eduardo Solessio is also interested in cone photoreceptors and the effects of aging on their function. Cones are among the most metabolically active cells in the body, thus consuming large amounts of glucose. Dr. Solessio is interested in understanding glucose metabolism in the eye as we age. His research could lead to better treatment of AMD and other diseases with abnormal glucose metabolism, like Diabetic Retinopathy.

Why is this research important?

AMD is the leading cause of visual disability and legal blindness in adults.

More than 1.75 million in the United States suffer from AMD related vision loss, seriously impacting their ability to participate in activities important to daily life such as reading and driving.  Owing to the rapid aging of the U.S. population, this number is expected to increase to almost 3 million by 2020.  Early detection and diagnosis can help to minimize the impact of AMD, in part through awareness of factors linked to onset, including age, race, smoking, and family history.

Though promising research is being conducted to uncover the origins of AMD, further work is critical to develop a better understanding of the causes and treatments for this serious optic disease.   

What is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

Imagine reading with a magnifying glass held 2 inches from your face.

Imagine having your driver’s license revoked because letters of the eye chart appear distorted, even though you’re wearing prescription eyeglasses.  Imagine learning there is no treatment to stop the loss of vision you are experiencing due to a common but virtually untreatable disease.

These scenarios describe reality for people diagnosed with age related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive eye disease that causes central vision loss primarily in those over age 60.

AMD results in:

Distortion and blurred vision when cells in the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for reading and color vision, become damaged.  
Rarely causes total blindness; however, treatment options to prevent its progression are limited.

We are discovering

What causes some cells of the developing central nervous system to become cells of the eye.