Trinity gene research could lead to therapy for untreatable eye condition

24 Aug 2022

Image: © Peakstock/

Researchers looked to boost the mitochondria of cells in cases of dry AMD. They hope that this approach could one day be used to treat the degenerative eye condition.

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin say a new gene therapy approach shows promise for treating a progressive eye disease.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is common condition that can lead to vision loss. It can affect up to 10pc of adults over the age of 65 and there are estimates that AMD will affect 288m people worldwide by 2040.

Researchers from Trinity’s School of Genetics and Microbiology looked at dry AMD, which represents between 80pc and 90pc of all AMD cases and has no current treatments.

They developed a new gene therapy that targets the mitochondrial function in cells that are malfunctioning in AMD.

Mitochondria are known as the ‘powerhouses’ of the cell since they manage energy production. The Trinity team said the performance of mitochondria dips greatly in dry AMD and this is linked to a deterioration in sight.

In a study, published in the journal Clinical and Translational Medicine, the team used a virus to access the affected cells and deliver a code that could offer a lifeline for failing mitochondria.

First author of the study Dr Sophia Millington-Ward said this approach increases the energy production levels in the eye’s retina, “which leads to better visual function in disease models of dry AMD”.

The researchers said this therapy method showed positive results in multiple models of dry AMD, which gives hope that it could one day be used as a global form of treatment.

“Critically, this study provides the first evidence in models that directly modulating bioenergetics in eye cells can provide benefit and improve visual function in dry AMD,” said senior author of the study Prof Jane Farrar.

“In doing so, the study highlights the energy powerhouses of the cell, mitochondria, as key targets for dry AMD.”

The Trinity research team is funded by various organisations including Enterprise Ireland, Science Foundation Ireland, Fighting Blindness Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic