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New research study investigating ‘executioner proteins’ in retinal disease co-funded by Fighting Blindness

November 9, 2018

New research study investigating ‘executioner proteins’ in retinal disease co-funded by Fighting Blindness content

Fighting Blindness is delighted to announce the commencement of a new research project by Dr Sarah Doyle, Trinity College Dublin. This 3-year project is co-funded by Fighting Blindness and the Health Research Board (HRB) under the MRCG-HRB co-funding scheme.

This study is one of 14 projects funded under the current round of the MRCG-HRB co-funding scheme. As part of this initiative, Dr Doyle was invited to make a short video explaining her project. You can find a link to that video here: https://youtu.be/60xf1ZhLar4.

Through this study, Dr Doyle will delve deeper into the mechanisms of retinal degeneration and seek to identify the role of a molecule known to be involved in cell death. For further information, please find a more detailed description of the study below:

Introduction to research study: 

Retinal degenerations including age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP) are among the leading causes of sight loss in the world. In fact, the number of individuals affected by AMD is expected to reach ~288 million globally by 2040.

There are a number of factors that can lead to retinal degeneration, but ultimately the end-point is death and loss of light sensitive cells in the retina called photoreceptor cells. In previous work in the area of neurodegenerative disease, Dr Doyle and her team studied a molecule called SARM1. SARM1 (selective androgen receptor modulator one) is highly efficient at triggering cell death in the brain following a response to a variety of insults. As such, SARM1 is termed an ‘executioner protein’.

The retina is considered an extension of the brain and central nervous system but as of yet, no work investigating the role of SARM1 in the retina has been reported. Dr Doyle now aims to explore this further in the context of retinal degeneration.

Significant efforts in identifying and understanding unifying pro-death or pro-survival traits in retinal disease are underway by scientists. Should SARM1 be identified as a key executioner in the process of retinal degeneration, this research study has the potential to provide new therapeutic targets that may slow the progression of disease. This is particularly exciting, as the development of SARM1-blockers for degenerative diseases of the brain are already underway.

Fighting Blindness wish Dr  Doyle every success in her studies and we look forward to reporting on how this research progresses over the coming years. For further information about research supported by Fighting Blindness, please contact the Research Department at research@fightingblindness.ie