Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the commonest cause of blindness in the Western world. AMD affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of the eye called the macula. The disease significantly affects quality of life, making it difficult to see details, like recognise people's faces and read.

There are two forms of AMD, wet and dry, with no cure for either of them. A treatment with some efficacy exists for wet AMD, which affects only 10% of people with AMD.

Genetics play a major role in determining whether people suffer from AMD. Alterations in the DNA for specific genes that change either the amount, or the type of proteins made in the retina, were linked to increased AMD risk.

A major mechanism by which genes are regulated is through epigenetic changes, which influence the amount of protein made by a cell without altering the DNA sequence itself. Unlike genetic changes, epigenetic changes are reversible, making them attractive drug targets. Genes with different epigenetic marks are differentially regulated.

Understanding epigenetic changes in AMD will provide new targets for drug development. Indeed, several approved epigenetic-based drugs are already in use in the fight against cancer.

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