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Research into Age-related Macular Degeneration

Michael Berry

Michael Berry II, PhD, Associate Professor, Molecular Biology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute Co-Director, Program in Neuroscience, Princeton University (and CEO of Optimal Acuity Corp.)

Dr. Berry’s lab seeks to expand our understanding of  how neurons combine to carry out powerful computations and has discovered that the retina carries out a diverse set of surprisingly sophisticated computations. The lab has also recently begun to study the ability of the neocortex to carry out predictive computations, and how the electrical activity of neurons encodes information in populations of hundreds of neurons or more. 

He will use his AMDF Breakthrough Award, in the amount of $100,000, for research supporting the next phase of clinical testing of Corneal Photovitrification (CPV), paving the way for potential FDA approval of CPV in the United States.  CPV, already in use in Canada, is a new corneal laser procedure for vision improvement in patients with late-stage, dry or wet age-related macular degeneration and other retinal disorders, including those with Best disease and Stargardt disease. The painless procedure takes only seconds and uses a low energy laser to minimally alter the shape of the cornea, relocating light rays to an area just outside of an AMD patient’s damaged macula. There, functioning retinal cells capture and transmit images to the brain, allowing patients to regain several lines of useful vision, to read again, and to experience improved quality of life. Patients report instantly-improved sight, and the brain continues to adapt to this new information source, allowing vision to improve in subsequent years, in many cases.

Shun-Yun Cheng, PhD student 
Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Massachusetts Medical School
With her 2019 AMDF/ARVO Travel Grant, Shun-Yun presented results from her study  in which she proposed a new way of thinking about the origins of AMD: that photoreceptors may initiate damage to the layer of cells that nourish them, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), rather than the other way around as is currently accepted. Her study opens new therapeutic opportunities.

Publications: Shun-Yun’s Travel Grant work contributed to the following article.
Altered photoreceptor metabolism in mouse causes late stage age-related macular degeneration-like pathologies