Funds to Aid Macular Degeneration Research

Bioengineering professor recieves $120,000 grant to search for chemical compounds that have the potential to treat age-related macular degeneration

Dimitrios Morikis headshot

Dimitrios Morikis, a professor of bioengineering

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — A University of California, Riverside bioengineering professor has received a two-year, $120,000 grant to search for chemical compounds that have the potential to treat age-related macular degeneration.

The funding will allow Dimitrios Morikis, a bioengineering professor at UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering, and Monte Radeke, an assistant research scientist at UC Santa Barbara, will perform computational screening, or computer-assisted calculations, and experimental testing, using a human retinal cell-based model.

The grant is from BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds innovative, early-stage research on Alzheimer’s disease and the vision diseases of glaucoma and macular degeneration. On July 10, the organization announced that it is giving awards totaling more than $7.2 million to 53 scientists in 16 states and four foreign countries.

The research by Morikis and Radeke focuses on the discovery of potential treatments for age-related macular degeneration, by targeting the complement system, a part of the immune system implicated in the development of the disease. Chemical compounds target the activation of the complement system, which is part of the innate immune system, the first line of defense against infection, and has been implicated in the progression of age-related macular degeneration.

Morikis and Radeke will use their knowledge from their previous and ongoing work on the discovery of peptidic, or small protein-like inhibitors of the complement system.

In particular, Morikis will employ ligand-based and receptor-based computational approaches to identify low-molecular mass chemical compounds that are capable of inhibiting the complement system. Chemical compounds with computationally-predicted activities, are tested using biochemical and functional assays.

Promising compounds according to these assays will be further tested by Radeke in a novel human retinal pigmented epithelial cell-based assay that mimics several aspects of age-related macular degeneration pathology in vitro. Repeated computational and experimental optimization will be performed for the most promising inhibitors identified in the retinal pigmented epithelial assays.

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Dimitrios Morikis
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