Spotlight on…..Dr. Sarah Doyle and her research on SARM1

In this instalment of the ‘Spotlight On’ series, we present a new Fighting Blindness researcher and the latest research project to be supported by Fighting Blindness and the Health Research Board under the MRCG-HRB co-funding scheme. This study is being conducted by Dr Sarah Doyle, based at Trinity College Dublin, who plans to examine the role of ‘executioner’ proteins in retinal disease. Dr Doyle will focus on a molecule

Dr. Sarah Doyle – Retina 2018

called SARM1 (Selective androgen receptor modulator 1), which is known to be associated with cell death in the brain and nervous system. In her work she will examine if it could play an important part of cell death within the retina.

What is the background behind this research?

Unfortunately, cell death is a major feature of retinal degeneration. Whilst there may be many mechanisms which lead to retinal degeneration, cell death forms a unifying end-point whereby light sensitive photoreceptor cells, essential for vision, start to die.

Why is this study focusing on one particular molecule?

SARM1 is a molecule known to Dr Doyle’s team who have previously conducted work into this molecule and its role in triggering cell death within the brain (regarded as an ‘executioner protein’). As the retina is a specialised extension of the brain, Dr Doyle wishes to explore this in the context of retinal degenerations. To date, no work investigating the role of this ‘executioner protein’ in retinal degenerations has been completed. If this research demonstrates a significant link between SARM1 and retinal degenerations, this may offer a new potential target for a therapeutic approach which may slow the progression of retinal disease. The benefit of this particular research strategy is that it may offer significant hope and potential for the treatment of many different retinal conditions.

To find out more about our newest Fighting Blindness researcher, we spoke to Dr Doyle and asked her a few questions:

What attracted you to retinal research?

To be honest it was due to a social conversation with a researcher in the retinal field that I now find myself in retinal research. As a biochemist with an interest in understanding how our immune system recognises danger signals, this serendipitous conversation about AMD piqued my curiosity and raised loads of questions about how our immune system responds to the early stages of disease.

That was 8 years ago and I still find myself with more questions than answers when it comes to the role the immune system plays in retinal degenerations – so plenty to keep working on!”

Within the next five years, where do you expect great advances to be made in vision research?

I think we will see gene therapy continue to excite not only the vision research world but the medical world in general in the coming 5 years.”

Fighting Blindness welcomes this study by Dr Doyle and look forward to finding out more about her progress in this area in the coming years. Dr Doyle is a wonderful addition to the research team and will bring a fresh approach to vision research for the organisation. For further information please contact or 01 6789 004.