Press Release: Fight for Sight Awards over £1.4 million for Eye Research

8 July 2010

Leading eye research charity, Fight for Sight, has announced over £1.4 million funding for research into the prevention and treatment of age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, corneal dystrophy, Stargardt disease and visual impairment in children.

Each year the charity awards grants for original and ground-breaking research into eye disease at leading universities and hospitals across the UK.

The new grants will support researchers based at the University of Cambridge, University of Dundee, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, University of Oxford, the UCL Institute of Child Health, King’s College London and Queen’s University Belfast.

Earlier this year Fight for Sight also awarded six PhD studentships totalling £545,000 for research into age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease, conjunctival scarring, retinitis pigmentosa and childhood blindness.

Michèle Acton, Chief Executive of Fight for Sight, said: “The Fight for Sight grants programme is extremely competitive and sadly every year we receive many more applications than we are able to support. We have chosen to fund ten projects, across a number of disease areas, which offer real hope to the many people affected by blindness and eye disease.”

Grants have been awarded to support research into the following eye conditions:

Age-related macular degeneration/Retinitis pigmentosa:
Professor Majlinda Lako of Newcastle University, working with Dr Evelyne Sernagor and Mr David Steel, will investigate the potential of transplanting photoreceptor cells into the retina to restore sight in people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa – two conditions where the death of these cells can lead to sight loss. Professor Lako will collaborate with Professor Robin Ali at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology on the project.

Mr Tim Jackson based at King’s College Hospital and Dr Klaus Suhling of King’s College London will look at ways of improving treatments for wet AMD. Current treatments involve injections directly into the eye which can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Determining how the drugs reach the diseased retina could lead to the development of more effective and easier to administer treatments such as eye drops.

A Fight for Sight Clinical Fellowship has been awarded to Mr Tiarnan Keenan of the University of Manchester for his research into new treatments for AMD. His work will focus on a particular gene mutation which increases the risk of the disease developing. The Clinical Fellowship is awarded each year to medical, nursing and health professional graduates who want to further their career in ophthalmic research.

Glaucoma:
Dr Forbes Manson from the University of Manchester will look into the causes of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG) – one of the most common forms of glaucoma. In POAG, increased pressure causes damage to the cells at the back of the eye often leading to permanent blindness. This project aims to identify a new gene and determine its role in POAG which could lead to earlier detection and treatment, avoiding permanent damage to the eye.

An Early Career Investigator Award, supporting young researchers to progress their career in vision research, has been made to Dr Barbara Lorber at the University of Cambridge. Dr Lorber will look transplanting special cells taken from the retina to repair the damage to the optic nerve caused by glaucoma.

Diabetic retinopathy;
Based on recent findings linking inflammation to the progression of diabetic retinopathy, Professor Alan Stitt and his colleagues Dr Heping Xu and Dr Hongliang Zong of Queen’s University Belfast will investigate the role of the protein ‘RAGE’ known to cause inflammation in several other diseases. In particular, he will look at the link between RAGE and the damage caused in the early stages of diabetic retinopathy. Preventing this early damage could stop the disease progr

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