The eye research breakthroughs happening now, thanks to you.

Today, belief in the power of science has never been so deserved, with vaccines against Covid-19 leading us out of a global crisis. Eye research too has made huge leaps forward, making important gains for people with sight loss.

We wanted to take this opportunity to shine a spotlight on four of our extraordinary scientists, and share their incredible work that has the potential to transform lives – made possible thanks to the support of people like you.

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Growing cells that help better understand eye disease

Update from: Professor Majlinda Lako PhD, Biosciences Institute, Newcastle University

Professor Lako has made stem cells by converting the skin cells of people with eye disease. These are guided to differentiate into retinal organoids and have the same genetic make-up as patients, and therefore work as a personalised medicine model, making it possible to carry out detailed studies to find out what is going wrong in the cells.

A pioneer in this area, Professor Lako’s work has been critical to development in the field. Crucially, her findings have enabled sight loss researchers worldwide to create models of disease to apply to their own work and she hopes her discoveries will allow her to devise and test new treatments for eye diseases. 

“Severe visual loss has a significant impact on quality of life, leading to social isolation and depression. Finding new cures for visual loss is an important endeavour for my research team and me.”

Applying AI to understand the links between diseases such as Alzheimer’s, and sight loss

Update from: Dr Pearse Keane MD, FRCOphth, University College London, Institute of Ophthalmology

Dr Keane is using artificial intelligence to analyse millions of retinal images from eye scans to look for common links between eye disease and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Collaborating with Moorfields, his aim is to improve our understanding of Alzheimer’s using state-of-the-art data science strategies.

The patterns he identifies could help diagnose patients with Alzheimer’s from simple eye scans in the future. If successful, this could be a ground breaking step forward in the early detection of Alzheimer’s - a leading cause of death and one of the biggest health challenges facing us in the UK. The potential in this research is incredible - the pioneering technology could go on to be used to diagnoses a range of medical conditions.

Looking for the chromosomes responsible for age-related macular degeneration to understand treatments

New project: Professor Felix Grassmann, University of Aberdeen

We know our genetic material can be responsible for age-related macular degeneration. Recently, Dr Grassmann’s lab reported that the risk of developing the condition is linked to deteriorating chromosomes in immune cells found in the blood.

Dr Grassmann aims to locate other responsible chromosomes to pinpoint the underlying cause and develop highly effective treatments, potentially turning lives around. If he can clarify which mechanisms to focus on and determine the gene regulation pattern, he could identify a cause for age-related macular degeneration, potentially leading to a cure.

Sight-saving gene therapy for choroideremia

Update from: Professor Robert MacLaren, MB ChB DPhil FRCOphth FRCS FACS FMedSci, University of Oxford

Rare genetic eye conditions, such as choroideremia which affects mainly men, are the result of a faulty gene. Professor MacLaren’s trial of a new gene therapy is halting disease progression in choroideremia and has even restored sight to some participants. Joe Pepper, 29, who took part in the study and was diagnosed with choroideremia aged six:  

“To grow up gradually seeing your vision deteriorate and contemplating giving up the activities you love was soul-destroying. I no longer have to prepare for going blind.”

Professor MacLaren is applying and building on this work to develop gene therapies for other inherited eye conditions like Stargardt disease and retinitis pigmentosa. The Tommy Salisbury Choroideremia Fund, set up through Fight for Sight, was pivotal in funding the early research that led to this pioneering work.


Exciting new discoveries are within our grasp. Donate now and help us at this crucial point in our fight to end sight loss.

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You can find out more about Fight for Sight’s incredible research successes and how they make a difference to people affected by sight loss, here. 

Research breakthroughs