This research aims to develop a treatment that will improve the quality of life of elderly people affected by Age-related Macular Degeneration
Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, recently announced an investment of €7.9 million in 80 research projects under the Irish Research Council’s (IRC) enterprise programmes.
One of the successful applicants to be awarded an Enterprise Partnership Scheme Scholarship, from Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT)’s School of Science, is second year PhD student, Sreeraj Manikandan.
Investigating the role of Glatiramer Acetate in modulating immune effector cells in wet Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the title of Sreeraj Manikandan’s research project, which will be carried out in partnership with enterprise partner Experimentica, Finland – a contract research organisation dedicated to developing ophthalmic models and established methodologies in the field of neuroscience.
AMD is a progressive neurodegenerative disease affecting vision in elderly people. It affects day-to-day life due to blurred or reduced central vision. Current treatments can only maintain the state of vision at which AMD is diagnosed, but painful injections and frequent visits to the eye doctor are required. The patient’s condition can worsen with time and restoring vision is a challenge, making AMD one of the leading causes of blindness in the world.
This research is focused on studying the therapeutic potential of glatiramer in a wet AMD model for the first time. Sreeraj’s project will explore the mechanism of action of glatiramer in retinal damage repair, effect on choroidal neovascularization, and immune system in an animal model. It will contribute hugely towards our understanding of the pathogenesis of wet AMD and the role played by the immune system in potentially counteracting this progression. The potential impact will be sight-saving treatment that will improve the quality of life of elderly people affected by AMD.
Experts in vision research
The research will be supervised Dr Sweta Rani (WIT), Dr Laurence Fitzhenry (Ocular Therapeutics Research Group - OTRG, WIT), Dr Lee Coffey (PMBRC, WIT) in partnership with Experimentica, and advisors Dr David Kent (Vision Clinic), and Dr Ann Logan (University of Warwick).
Experimentica is the Enterprise Partner for the project. Prof Simon Kaja and Dr Marc Cerrada-Gimenez, the enterprise mentors, are internationally regarded experts in vision research, experimental ophthalmology, and neuroscience.
New pathways for treatment
When asked why he applied for the Enterprise Partnership Scheme, Sreeraj explained, “I believed this collaboration would lead to significant engagement with the international scientific community, both academic and industrial, and provide a positive and challenging research environment in which I could acquire skills in technologies at the forefront of biomedical research.
“With this funding from the IRC and the support of Experimentica, my supervisors, the Research Support Unit and the OTRG research team here at WIT, I am confident that we will greatly contribute to the understanding of AMD, and could open new pathways for its treatment, improving the quality of life of those affected.”
Originally from Karukaputhoor, India, Sreeraj’s passion for research started during secondary school with his first-ever taste of science. He went on to study for a Bachelors in Biotechnology from Karunya Institute of Technology. He later migrated to Ireland and completed a Masters in Biotechnology at University College Dublin before beginning his research journey at WIT.