We raise awareness and tackle issues with key decision makers and stakeholders
Animals in research
As a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) Fight for Sight supports the principle of using animals in research. We believe it is an important part of the research process to advance our understanding of eye conditions and to develop treatments, but should only be used where there is no alternative.
All AMRC member charities support this principle, as outlined in the AMRC's statement on the use of animals in research.
Genome editing is a powerful technology that has the potential to improve health. It allows sections of DNA from a genome to be precisely replaced or removed using “molecular scissors”.
The application of these tools is already having a game-changing effect on research intended to further our understanding of the roles of specific genes and processes in health and disease. In the future, these tools also hold the potential to be applied clinically to prevent or treat lethal and/or seriously debilitating genetic diseases. The concept of genome editing is not new: for many years, scientists have applied a range of tools to manipulate genetic sequences. However, rapid technological developments in this area – namely the emergence of the CRISPR-Cas9 system – have meant that targeted, highly efficient editing of a genome sequence may become relatively simple. This has cast a spotlight on these technologies, and, in particular, the possibility that they could be applied to enable widespread editing of human cells for therapeutic benefit.
Research using genome editing tools holds the potential to significantly progress our understanding of many key processes in biology, health and disease and for this reason we believe that responsibly conducted research of this type, which is scientifically and ethically rigorous and in line with current legal and regulatory frameworks, should be allowed to proceed.
We support the use of genome editing in preclinical biomedical research as well as studies that progress and refine these technologies. The science is still at a relatively early stage and potential therapeutic applications are not yet here but within the UK, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have given permission to one group of scientists, at the Francis Crick Institute, to use CRISPR-Cas9 to modify genes of embryos during the first 7 days of embryonic development. These embryos donated by women who have previously undergone IVF and have excess embryos, will need to be destroyed within 14 days, and can’t be implanted into a woman.
There may be future potential to apply genome editing in a clinical context using human germ cells or embryos, though this is prohibited by law in the UK and unlikely to be permissible in other European jurisdictions at present. This raises important ethical and regulatory questions, which need to be anticipated and explored in a timely and inclusive manner as the basic research proceeds and prior to any decisions about clinical application.
Gene therapy is providing a growing focus in the environment of eye research. It is an exciting area of new science with the potential to benefit people living with sight loss. The nature of this research aims to provide treatments to correct or replace gene abnormalities.
Inherited genetic conditions that lead to sight loss, currently have no treatments available, but early indications of gene therapy highlight the potential to halt the progression and possibly improve sight for people with inherited eye diseases. As with other new areas of research, its potential needs to be balanced with adequate safeguards.
Fight for Sight supports the funding of research to increase knowledge and development of gene therapy, as well as expanding the expertise required to deliver such treatments and after-care.
Stem cell research
Sight loss occurs when one or more components of the eye are damaged or stop working properly. Stem cells may be of use to replace the damaged cells in the eye.
While we recognise that there are alternative perspectives on stem cell based research Fight for Sight believes that this area has the potential to transform the way in which we respond to sight loss – providing treatments for many of today’s incurable eye diseases and conditions.
Stem cell research and therapy is subject to strict regulation through the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA) and within this framework of regulation Fight for Sight supports research projects that involve the use of embryonic, non-embryonic (adult) and animal stem cells. We do not and would not support unregulated use and marketing of unproven stem cell treatments.
Fight for Sight believes that continued research into the use and potential of stem cells is essential to enhance our knowledge and understanding and take us closer to ending sight loss.