Our Research

Our group researches AMD from multiple angles, utilizing our multidisciplinary group members and varied collaborators within and without the country. Here, you can find information about the various topics we currently have under investigation.

At the end of the page, you can find some of our more recent publications, as well as the more popular articles we have released over the years.

But First, What is AMD?

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a multifactorial disease with unclear etiology. In western countries, it is the single greatest cause of visual impairment amongst the elderly populace. Its prevalence is projected to increase considerably as the world’s average age continues to rise. Up to 20% of all cases of legal blindness worldwide can be attributed to this irreversible vision loss. The expenses associated with AMD are sky-high and they will only continue to increase as things are now.

Age-related macular degeneration causes (currently) irreparable damage to the macula, which leads to the loss of central vision (the sharp, fine detail, “straight ahead” vision) that is required for activities like reading, driving, recognizing faces, and seeing the world in color. See the comparison below for an example of what the change might look like. AMD can be divided into two different categories depending on disease progression. For more information on AMD, please see this link (PubMed).

Normal vision on the left, while on the right you can see how in advanced AMD the central vision has disappeared, with visual anomalies around the edges of the blind spot. Color vision has also reduced drastically.

Our Current Research Interests

We strive to understand the mechanisms of AMD by examining its progression from multiple angles. We are particularly interested in the changes in the end-of-life processing of proteins in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) via proteasomes and autophagy, as well as protein aggregation.

We have multiple types of cell lines available to us, including iPSCs (induced pluripotent stem cells) created from cells originating from AMD patients, which enables us to repeatedly and reliably study changes in cellular protein expression and homeostasis. We also have plenty of experience in working with various animal models, including mice and rabbit lines, which lets us study the changes we observe on cellular level in a closer-to-life environment. The neighbouring Kuopio University Hospital provides us with clinical data and samples gathered from AMD patients.

In addition, we actively study genetics-related aspects of AMD, which is aided by the resources provided by FinnGen, whose services are invaluable in Finnish genetic research (link). We can thus combine protein level data with genetic and epigenetic research to pave new paths in the treatment of AMD both in general and personal medicine.

Our Publications

(External links go to PubMed, ScienceDirect, and scientific journal sites. Lists according to Scopus, focused on AMD and autophagy.)

Recent Publications

Top Three Most Cited Reviews 2018-2022

  1. Mechanisms of mitochondrial dysfunction and their impact on age-related macular degeneration (2020)
    • Kaarniranta K, Uusitalo H, Blasiak J, Felszeghy S, Kannan R, Kauppinen A, Salminen A, Sinha D, Ferrington D
  2. Role of Mitochondrial DNA Damage in ROS-Mediated Pathogenesis of Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) (2019)
    • Kaarniranta K, Pawlowska E, Szczepanska J, Jablkowska A, Blasiak J
  3. PGC-1α Protects RPE Cells of the Aging Retina against Oxidative Stress-Induced Degeneration through the Regulation of Senescence and Mitochondrial Quality Control. The Significance for AMD Pathogenesis (2018)
    • Kaarniranta K, Kajdanek J, Morawiec J, Pawlowska E, Blasiak J

Top Three Most Cited Articles 2018-2022

  1. Loss of NRF-2 and PGC-1α genes leads to retinal pigment epithelium damage resembling dry age-related macular degeneration (2019)
    • Felszeghy S, Viiri J, Paterno J, Hyttinen J, Koskela A, Chen M, Leinonen H, Tanila H, Kivinen N, Koistinen A, Toropainen E, Amadio M, Smedowski A, Reinisalo M, Winiarczyk M, Mackiewicz J, Mutikainen M, Ruotsalainen A-K, Kettunen M, Jokivarsi K, Sinha D, Kinnunen K, Petrovski G, Blasiak J, Bjørkøy G, Koskelainen A, Skottman H, Urtti A, Salminen A, Kannan R, Ferrington D, Xu H, Levonen A-L, Tavi P, Kauppinen A, Kaarniranta K
  2. Mitophagy in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium of Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration Investigated in the NFE2L2/PGC-1α-/- Mouse Model (2020)
    • Gurubaran I, Viiri J, Koskela A, Hyttinen J, Paterno J, Kis G, Antal M, Urtti A, Kauppinen A, Felszeghy S, Kaarniranta K
  3. Expression of VEGFA-regulating miRNAs and mortality in wet AMD (2019)
    • Blasiak J, Watala C, Tuuminen R, Kivinen N, Koskela A, Uusitalo-Järvinen H, Tuulonen A, Winiarczyk M, Mackiewicz J, Zmorzyński S, Filip A, Kaarniranta K