The Retinal Degeneration Center was established in 1990 by the University of Michigan to emphasize research into retinal diseases that cause progressive vision loss. To date, over 140 different genetic diseases have been identified that cause visual loss, either centrally or peripherally. Retinitis pigmentosa is a set of diseases that leads to progressive loss of peripheral vision and night blindness. Over 90 different forms have been identified, many by the researchers at the Kellogg Eye Center.
Macular degenerations affect central vision that is necessary for reading and driving. Young individuals are affected by genetic forms of macular degenerations with onset during grade school and high school years. Older individuals frequently suffer from forms of age related macular degeneration (AMD). The Center for Retinal and Macular Degeneration is engaged in research to identify the causative genes, and to understand the changes associated with aging that may lead to macular degeneration. We have collected over 2000 DNA samples from patients with AMD, and from a number of older individuals with no vision problems as controls. Many of our patients choose to participate in molecular diagnostic studies as well as clinical trials designed to test the safety and efficacy of the latest medications and devices.
A major emphasis is placed on projects that will move new knowledge of genes, proteins, and mechanisms of disease toward treatments.
Ongoing studies in this Center focus on:
- The genetic basis for retinal and macular degenerations
- Molecular diagnostic testing for retinal degenerations
- Basic biological investigations into the cause of retinal cell death and degeneration
- Clinical investigations to study retinal degenerations and potential therapeutic approaches
- Development of pharmaceutical agents to treat degeneration
Investigators in this Center are funded by national research grants and private philanthropy. A particular strength of this Center is the interactive, collaborative approach among the affiliated researchers. Training of younger scientists is also an important part of the program.