11:09am Monday 14 October 2019

Researchers have eye on new cornea treatments

The cornea is the outmost portion of the eye and protects the eye from the outside world. It consists of 5 different transparent layers.

Corneal dystrophy is a group of several hereditary eye disorders where the structure of the cornea is abnormal, leading to pain, discomfort and a build-up of cloudy material that leads to loss of vision. Different forms of corneal dystrophy affect the different layers of the cornea.

There is currently no cure for corneal dystrophy other than corneal transplantation.

The new three-year research project is led by Professor Irwin McLean in the Division of Molecular Medicine at Dundee, and at Ulster by Dr Tara Moore, of the Centre for Molecular Biosciences, and consultant ophthalmologist Professor Johnny Moore.

Two of the first genes causing corneal dystrophy were reported by the McLean group in 1997. The current project will apply recently developed gene silencing techniques to try to ‘switch off’ the faulty gene in patients with corneal dystrophy. This will hopefully lead to a better treatment than corneal transplantation, which is currently the only option for severely affected individuals.

‘We are very grateful to Fight for Sight for funding this project and we are extremely excited to commence working on a new therapy for this important group of eye disorders,’ said Professor McLean.

The grant award to Dundee and Ulster is part of over £1.4million of research funding announced by Fight for Sight. Each year the charity awards grants for original and ground-breaking research into eye disease at leading universities and hospitals across the UK.

The latest round of funding covers research into the prevention and treatment of age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, corneal dystrophy, Stargardt’s disease and visual impairment in children.

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.’

Note for Editors:

1) Fight for Sight
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. Our 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.

2) Awards
In order to ensure that the research funded is of the highest quality, Fight for Sight has established an extensive process of independent peer review. As a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) the charity’s peer review process complies with AMRC guidelines for best practice.


For media enquiries contact:
Roddy Isles
Head, Press Office
University of Dundee
Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN
TEL: 01382 384910
E-MAIL: r.isles@dundee.ac.uk
MOBILE: 07800 581902

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