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Mar 5, 2021

New FBC award to uncover links between inflammation and Stargardt disease

Fighting Blindness Canada (FBC) is pleased to announce funding for a new research award focused on Stargardt disease. Dr. Bob Chow (University of Victoria) will be leading the project to understand the role that inflammation plays in development of the disease, and the results of this project will directly support development of a new potential therapy. This FBC award contributes to funding secured through a public-private partnership between the national not-for-profit organization, Mitacs, and Oak Bay Biosciences, Inc.

About Stargardt disease

Stargardt disease affects the macula, a part of the retina that is responsible for detail and central vision with vision loss generally beginning during childhood or the teenage years. Most cases of the disease are caused by mutations in the gene ABCA4. These mutations prevent retinal cells from removing a toxic product (lipofuscin) which builds up and ultimately causes the death of photoreceptor cells, the light sensing cells in the retina.

RESEARCH INTO Stargardt disease

Previous research has shown that Stargardt disease increases the number of pro-inflammatory factors present in the retina, suggesting that inflammation may increase disease progression. There are currently no treatments for Stargardt disease, although a number of potential therapeutics that target the inflammation reaction are being tested in early stage clinical trials.

Dr. Chow is building on this work, testing the hypothesis that a specific inflammatory factor, called Complement D drives Stargardt disease. Dr. Chow’s team will remove the Complement D gene in a genetic animal model with Stargardt disease. If Complement D is important for Stargardt disease, disease progression will be slowed or stopped.

Dr. Chow is collaborating with a company (Oak Bay Biosciences) that has developed a drug molecule that blocks the function of Complement D. The genetic experiment described above is important to understand the role that Complement D plays in Stargardt progression. If successful, there will be a strong rationale to test out this new drug as a potential treatment for Stargardt disease.

We look forward to sharing more about the results of this project in the next few years!

Learn more about Stargardt disease.


Fighting Blindness Canada is the largest charitable funder of vision research in Canada. We offer hope to Canadians by funding the best, most promising research that is driving treatments and cures for blinding eye diseases. To support the instrumental work we do, please consider making a donation today.

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