Cirrus Therapeutics, the University of Bristol, and London’s Global University Institute of Ophthalmology have unveiled a revolutionary treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss among older adults. Highlighted on the cover of Science Translational Medicine, this groundbreaking research shows that increasing levels of a specific protein, IRAK-M, in retinal cells could offer a highly effective therapy for AMD.

AMD severely impacts vision, starting with blurred sight or a central black dot, which can expand, leading to complete central vision loss. Currently, around 200 million people worldwide suffer from AMD, with projections suggesting this number will rise to 288 million by 2040 due to aging populations. The exact cause of AMD is complex, involving a mix of aging, environmental, and lifestyle factors.

The research team discovered that augmenting IRAK-M levels in retinal cells significantly protects against retinal degeneration. “This discovery represents the first pathway-agnostic approach toward AMD, offering a comprehensive treatment option for the millions suffering from this debilitating condition,” said Dr. Andrew Dick, Head of the Academic Unit of Ophthalmology at the University of Bristol, Director of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, and co-founder and Chief Scientific Advisor of Cirrus Therapeutics.

Dr. Jian Liu, the first author and senior research scientist at the University of Bristol’s Academic Unit of Ophthalmology, added, “Age is a primary risk factor for AMD, and the gradual decrease of IRAK-M levels with age, which further declines in AMD, is a key marker for early AMD progression and a new avenue for treatment.”

This discovery builds and improves upon current treatments that target single pathophysiology pathways. “Our novel approach not only addresses the multiple pathways involved in treating AMD but also offers the most compelling and evidence-based strategy available today,” said Cirrus Therapeutics co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Ying Kai Chan. Cirrus Therapeutics recently spun out of the University of Bristol to develop therapies related to this discovery.

Funding and Support

The research was funded by the Rosetrees Trust, Stoneygate Trust, Underwood Trust, Macular Society, Sight Research UK, Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, Sharon Eccles Steele Center for Translation, and supported by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) BRC Moorfields and UCL-Institute of Ophthalmology.

By Impact Lab