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We Are What We Eat: Nutrition, Genes, Cognition & Deep Learning in Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Wednesday, December 11, 2019 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm


Emily Y. Chew, M.D.
Director of Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications
National Eye Institute

Dr. Chew is the Director of the Division of Epidemiology and Clinical Applications (DECA) at the National Eye Institute. She is also the Chief of the Clinical Trials Branch. 

Dr. Chew is recognized internationally for her contribution to the greater understanding of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the United States. Globally, it accounts for 9% of all blindness with projections of 288 million people affected by 2020. 

She received her medical degree and her ophthalmology training at the University of Toronto School of Medicine. She completed her fellowship in Medical Retina at the Wilmer Eye Institute, the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutes and the University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands. 

Dr. Chew and her team conducted clinical trials that resulted in successful secondary prevention of AMD with oral antioxidant vitamins and minerals which has public health implications for the large number of individuals affected globally. Results of the study showed that five years of supplementation with high doses of antioxidant vitamins, copper, and zinc reduced the risk of developing advanced AMD in 30% of individuals in the study who took the supplements and had already-existing moderate to advanced dry or wet AMD. 

Dr. Chew is the director of the clinical program in the Macular Telangiectasia Project (Mac Tel Project) which is an international study conducted in 22 clinics in seven countries along with four basic science laboratories. She chairs the current international study, known as the AMD Ryan Initiative Study (ARIS), which evaluates the natural course of early AMD. She and her research colleagues at NLM/NIH utilize artificial intelligence/deep learning on the detection and progression of age-related macular degeneration. 

She chairs the Actions to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORD) Eye Study in participants with type 2 diabetes, working in collaboration with NHLBI and NIDDK colleagues. She also conducts trials and collaborates with NIH colleagues on more rare diseases such as ocular manifestations of von Hippel-Lindau Disease and others. 

Dr. Chew has received awards including the Helen Keller Prize in Vision Research and the Bressler Award for Vision Research. The American Academy of Ophthalmology has recognized her contributions to vision research with the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Jackson Memorial Lectureship. 

She served as the president of the Macula Society and the American Ophthalmological Society. She also led the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) as the president in 2016 to 2017. 


Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the United States and in the developed world. Two NIH-supported randomized clinical trials with 10 years of follow-up in nearly 10,000 participants demonstrated that nutritional supplements with antioxidant vitamins and minerals reduces the risk of progression to late AMD. Dietary data suggest the importance of the Mediterranean diet in reducing the risk of AMD, particularly fish consumption. The analyses of the genetic interaction with nutrition challenges the idea that you can eat away your genetic risk. Nutritional associations with cognitive function were also analyzed in these two cohorts and these data will also be presented. Finally, we are in the era of artificial intelligence. The development of deep learning techniques to detect and to predict progression of this blinding disease may be vital for both research and potentially, clinical care.

The page was last updated on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 - 3:52pm