National Eye Institute launches data portal for macular degeneration research

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The National Eye Institute (NEI) Data CommonsThis link is external to nei.nih.gov and will open in a new browser window or tab. now enables researchers to access data from patients with macular degeneration who participated in the Age-related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2). The database complements newly available stem cell lines created by the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute (NYSCF) from blood cells of AREDS2 study participants. Together, these resources will accelerate the discovery of therapies for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other blinding conditions. The NEI and the NYSCF will host a joint webinar on March 30 to introduce the new NEI AMD Integrative Biology Initiative data portalThis link is external to nei.nih.gov and will open in a new browser window or tab., housed within the NEI Data Commons. The NEI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

“With the addition of AREDS2 data, the NEI Data Commons now includes data on thousands of participants with AMD. The new portal enables researchers to make the greatest use of this fantastic trove of information,” said Steven Becker, Ph.D., director of the NEI Office of Regenerative Medicine.

AMD affects the light-sensing retina in the back of the eye and is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness among older adults. Both genes and environmental factors such as diet and smoking affect AMD risk. Effective prevention and treatment strategies are lacking for some types of AMD.

AREDS2 included participants with a variety of genetic profiles, including genes that increase or decrease AMD risk. An NEI collaboration with NYSCF has generated induced pluripotent stem cell lines from a spectrum of AREDS2 participants. With these cells, researchers will be able to create human disease-relevant models with a variety of genetic backgrounds to better understand how genes contribute to AMD. Currently, 60 induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) lines are available through the NYSCF repositoryThis link is external to nei.nih.gov and will open in a new browser window or tab.. Accompanying genomic and phenotypic data will be available to the research community in the coming months. Additional stem cell lines with their AMD-related mutations corrected will be available by the end of the year. NYSCF is an independent non-profit institute focused on accelerating disease research and treatment through stem cells.

Anonymized AREDS2 data is available to researchers for analysis within the NEI Data Commons portal or for download. The system includes data on participants’ diet, eye health, and genetics. The system will soon house AREDS2 retinal images.

Along with AREDS2 data, the NEI Data Commons includes data from rare genetic eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and Stargardt disease, courtesy of eyeGENE®This link is external to nei.nih.gov and will open in a new browser window or tab., and the Patient Reported Outcomes with LASIK (PROWL) study. NEI plans to add data from future clinical trials.

To access datasets in the NEI Data Commons, researchers submit a research proposal for review and sign a data use agreement. After their study is complete, users contribute their research data to the database. Access to the iPSC lines requires a separate material transfer agreement with NYSCF.

“Providing clinical data through the NEI Data Commons will help us expand the utility of our clinical trial data and streamline research,” said Kerry Goetz, administrator of the NEI Data Commons. “Our system is user-friendly and requires no extensive coding knowledge.”

Wright C, Mazzucco AE, Becker SM, Sieving PA, and Tumminia SJ. “NEI-Supported Age-Related Macular Degeneration Research: Past, Present, and Future.” Transl Vis Sci Technol. 2020 Jun 30. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.9.7.49This link is external to nei.nih.gov and will open in a new browser window or tab.


NEI leads the federal government’s research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs to develop sight-saving treatments and address special needs of people with vision loss. For more information, visit https://www.nei.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit https://www.nih.gov/This link is external to nei.nih.gov and will open in a new browser window or tab..

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