Fight for Sight, a UK-based eyesight research charity, has announced that it will funding researchers from the University of Manchester to investigate the genetic risk of the UK’s leading cause of blindness, age-related macular degeneration.

A team of researchers, led by Dr Rachel Taylor from the University of Manchester, say they will use a combination of cutting-edge technologies, including molecular “tools’” from bacteria - to analyse the impact of gene changes identified in families where there are multiple generations living with age-related macular degeneration.

Then, using genome editing the researchers plan to generate a bank of cells that carry the same DNA changes identified in patients who have macular changes under the age of 50 to model the condition.

The investigation will hopefully “enable us to better understand the role of gene changes in age-related macular degeneration and why this devastating condition can occur more in some families,” explained Dr Rachel Taylor.

She continued, “It could also allow for the development of genetic tests so that doctors can more accurately predict an individual’s likelihood of developing macular degeneration, estimate how it may affect their vision, and allow the development of a personalised treatment plan.”

Macular degeneration, also known as macular disease or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), causes loss of central vision as a result of damage to the macula – a tiny collection of light-sensitive cells found within the retina at the back of the eye.

Unfortunately, damage to the macula can’t be reversed, and it’s the most common cause of permanent and severe sight loss in the UK, affecting around 600,000 people.