Fight for sight awards £90,000 for eye research

New funding awarded through the Fight for Sight Small Grant Awards scheme will help researchers investigate some of the causes of sight loss and improve ways of detecting eye disease.

Fight for Sight, the UK’s leading eye research charity, has awarded six new grants of £15,000 to support research in the following areas:

Enabling earlier detection of glaucoma
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of sight loss worldwide and affects one in 50 people over the age of 40 in the UK. Damage to the optic nerve caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed but early detection enables earlier treatment which can slow down the progression of the disease and prevent permanent sight loss.

Dr Thomas Jehle and Mr David Broadway  at the Glaucoma Research Unit of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital will use their grant to test the effectiveness of the Pattern Electroretinogram (PERG) technique for detecting early stage glaucoma. It is hoped the new technique can also be used to helps doctors determine cases where the disease is likely to progress and new treatment is needed.

Dr Julie Albon, Professor James Morgan and Professor Rachel North, from the School of Ophthalmology and Vision Science at the University of Cardiff, will use their Fight for Sight Small Grant Award to detect the early stages of optic nerve damage caused by glaucoma using the recently developed SD-OCT imaging technique.

Improving the success of corneal transplants
Corneal transplants are used to restore sight in patients affected by corneal disease or injury. Although the procedure has a good success rate, sometimes the new cornea is rejected and the transplant fails.

Consultant ophthalmologist, Mr Frank Larkin, and optometrist, Mr Scott Chin Hung Hau, based at Moorfields Eye Hospital are developing a method of predicting the risk of corneal graft rejection following corneal transplants. The new non-invasive technique will measure the number of white blood cells found in the cornea following transplantation to see if there is a correlation between white blood cell count and corneal graft rejection. If successful, the technique could be used to identify patients at risk of corneal rejection and improve the success rate of transplantations.

Understanding the causes of inherited retinal disease
Professors Tony Moore and John Yates from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology will use their Fight for Sight Small Grant Award to look at the causes of macular dystrophy – an inherited eye condition which affects the central area of the retina (the macular). Macular dystrophies can cause sight loss in children from a young age.

The team at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology are using advanced gene sequencing techniques to identify the faulty gene responsible for macular dystrophy being passed down through families. The project will give them a better understanding of the causes of the diseases and the way it develops and, if successful, could lead to new gene replacement therapy treatments.

Professor Moore said of his award: “The grant from Fight for Sight will allow us to use the very latest gene sequencing techniques to identify the genetic changes that cause visual loss in children with inherited macular dystrophies. This will be a first step in developing new treatments.”

Dr Kaoru Fujinami and Dr Andrew Webster based at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital are investigating abnormalities in the gene ABCA4 which causes Stargardt’s disease. Stargardt’s is one of the most common forms of inherited retinal disease which results in progressive sight loss.

Recent clinical trials have shown that gene replacement therapy is safe for patients with the inherited disease Leber’s congenital amaurosis. With funding from Fight for Sight, the team aims to discover more about the faulty gene that causes Stargardt’s which could lead to a new gene replacement therapy for this disease.

Informing health care provision
Professor Rupert Bourne and Dr Holly Price, based at the Vision and Eye Research Unit of Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, will use their Fight for Sight Small Grant Award to analyse data collected through the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries and Risk Factors study to provide up-to-date estimates of the incidence and prevalence of sight loss worldwide. The information will be used to plan eye care service provision.

Fight for Sight is committed to supporting world-class research into the prevention and treatment of blindness and eye disease. For more information about the charity and the current research programme, visit

For more information
call Louise Elliott at Fight for Sight on 020 7929 7755
or email


Notes for editors

Fight for Sight is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to funding world-class research into the prevention and treatment of blindness and eye disease.

Since 1965, the charity has funded research at leading universities and hospitals throughout the UK. The charity’s major achievements in this time include:
• saving the sight of thousands of premature babies through understanding and controlling levels of oxygen delivery;
• restoring sight by establishing the UK Corneal Transplant Service enabling over 48,000 corneal transplants to take place;
• revolutionising the treatment for children with amblyopia (lazy eye);
• bringing hope to children with inherited eye disease by helping fund the team responsible for the world’s first gene therapy clinical trial; and
• providing £1million for the research unit at the dedicated children’s eye centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Fight for Sight’s current research programme is focusing on preventing and treating age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataract. We are also funding research into the causes of childhood blindness and a large number of rare eye diseases.

Thursday 25th of November 2010 10:00:44 AM