A look back at eye research in 2015

21 December 15

written by:

Ade Deane-Pratt

(more articles)

12 months and some really exciting steps forward

We take another look at some of the important eye research news stories from the year.

There have been some really exciting steps forward, including:

  • A huge injection of funds for gene therapies to treat choroideremia and other inherited eye disorders, together now the UK's leading cause of blindness
  • The prospect of eye drops to treat cataract and prevent short-sightedness
  • Peek getting closer to bringing low-cost and accurate eye tests to anywhere in the world
  • Many new genes discovered that cause or increase risk of eye conditions
  • Greater moves toward true patient participation in research
Gloved hand holding a pipette over a petri dish.

January

Calcium in the back of the eye may be a trigger for AMD

Dr Imre Lengyel and colleagues identify a possible link between age-related macular degeneration and a type of calcium called HAP. Dr Lengyel was funded by Fight for Sight via the Mercer Fund.

An extra £5 million for gene therapy start up

Nightstar gets more funds from Syncona LLP, taking their investment to £17 million. Their choroideremia programme was made possible by the Tommy Salisbury Choroideremia Fund at Fight for Sight.

Professor MacLaren and team wearing their scrubs in the operating theatre, standing around a patient undergoing gene therapy.

February

New choroideremia gene therapy clinical trial

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania announce the first clinical trial of gene therapy for choroideremia to happen in the USA.

New gene linked to glaucoma

Researchers discover that a common variation in the CACNA1A gene ups the risk of developing ‘exfoliation syndrome’. This age-related condition can lead to high pressure in the eye.

Close up picture of someone showing their very white teeth and healthy gums.

March

A new source of stem cells for repairing the cornea

Teeth may be a good source of cells to repair the eye and restore sight, according to research from the University of Pittsburgh.

Fight for Sight awards 7 new PhD studentships

We announce almost £700,000 in new research grants.

Cartoon overhead map of England showing the southest region coloured in red.

South-east England ahead on genetic tests for inherited eye conditions

The results are part of Fight for Sight's REGARD programme to build an optimal, patient-led model of care services.

April

Different barriers to cell transplant success between the inherited eye conditions

The way in which scars form in the retina after the death of light-sensitive cells depends on the genetic fault behind the condition. The research was part-funded by Fight for Sight.

New gene for Leber congenital amaurosis

Faults in PNPLA6 lead to the death of light-sensitive cells in the eye. The discovery means there is a potential new target for treatment.

Stem cell injection has potential to halt sight loss in early AMD

Results from a pre-clinical study show that a single injection can lead to benefits lasting '16 human years'.

May

A temporary benefit to night vision

Final results from the first clinical trial of gene therapy for Leber congenital amaurosis show that the treatment can work in principal. The projects was part-funded by Fight for Sight.

New form of inherited blindness discovered

RP Genome Project research reveals that the gene DRAM2 is essential for vision. The £1.2 million project is co-funded by Fight for Sight and RP Fighting Blindness.

A healthcare worker in Kenya holding up a smartphone showing the Peek Acuity test, towards a woman with her back to the camera, pointing to indicate the direction that the letter E on the screen is facing.
Eye test with Peek

Peek eye test app works as well as visual acuity charts

Study shows the Peek Acuity smartphone app is as fast and accurate as using standard eye charts. Peek was part-funded by Fight for Sight.

June

Faulty ‘housekeeping’ gene causes rare form of complete colour blindness

International research team discovers unexpected role for ATF6 in vision. The project was part-funded by Fight for Sight.

Nine new research projects funded in our spring 2015 grants round

Fight for Sight awards over £1.4 million in new grants for world-class eye research.

Researchers identify genetic fault that can cause coloboma – a keyhole shape in the eye

UK and Italian researchers discover the genetic cause of a rare form of blindness, in a project co-funded by Fight for Sight.

Canadian gene therapy trial to treat choroideremia

Biopharmaceutical company Nightstar announces new study at the University of Alberta.

July

Research image of microglial cells.
Microglia

Clean-up cells munch through photoreceptors in retinitis pigmentosa

‘Microglia’ could make a new target for treatment to slow sight loss.

Gene therapy gives long-term protection to photoreceptor cells in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa

Fight for Sight results published in Molecular Therapy show that the cells could drive visually-guided behaviour, even in late stage disease.

A view over an empty, calm sea to the hazy horizon at sunrise (or sunset - I can't tell!).

A look at new and emerging technologies to treat inherited retinal conditions

A review by the National Institute for Health Research working with Fight for Sight is published in the journal Eye.

Cataract treatment with eye drops instead of surgery could be coming soon

Promising pre-clinical research shows that lanosterol can turn cloudy lenses clear.

August

2015 Fulbright Fight for Sight Research Award announced

The award goes to ophthalmology registrar Dr Christine A Kiire to focus on diabetic retinopathy.

Head and shoulders shot of Dr Kiire, smiling at the camera.
Dr Kiire

Hidden lesions predict the risk of sight loss from diabetic retinopathy

New 'wide-field' imaging can see more of the retina and reveal who is most at risk.

September

Treating keratoconus in children and young people

The second clinical trial to tackle a question from the Sight Loss and Vision Priority Setting Partnership led by Fight for Sight with guidance from the James Lind Alliance.

Distorted Amsler grid.
Grid as it might appear to someone with age-related macular degeneration

Stem cell surgery aims to give sight back to people with AMD

A 60-year-old woman becomes the world’s first person to have an experimental stem cell treatment for age-related macular degeneration.

October

Panel discussion at the meeting.
Funders of Eye Research Summit 2015

VISION 2020 UK hosts seminar for funders of eye research

The first ever Funders of Eye Research Summit (FundERS 2015) was created in association with Fight for Sight.

Scientists test new gene therapy in Leber hereditary optic neuropathy

The treatment restored vision to mice with the most common genetic fault to cause the condition in humans.

Gene therapy researcher wins MRC/Fight for Sight Clinical Training Fellowship award

Dr Harry Orlans will work at the University of Oxford to develop a treatment for dominant retinitis pigmentosa.

Dr Orlans sitting at a bench in his lab, wearing a white coat and smiling at the camera.
Dr Orlans

Recycling in the eye is key to seeing in colour and bright light

Results show that ‘cone’ photoreceptor cells can’t cope with everyday damage caused by light without a process called autophagy.

November

New funds for eye research in our autumn 2015 grants round

Fight for Sight’s small grant award schemes fund 21 new research projects for a total of £300,000.

Gene therapy halts sight loss in dogs with late-stage retinitis pigmentosa

Research results suggest the treatment can preserve useful vision for at least 2 years.

Graphic showing the structural formula of sterol.
Chemical structure of sterol.

Sterol eye drops make cataracts less cloudy

Promising research in animals and human tissue on developing non-surgical treatment. The results follow July’s news that lanosterol eye drops clear cataract.

$35 million more to gene therapy for inherited retinal conditions

NightstaRx secures investment from venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates.

Parkinson’s drug could treat macular degeneration

A study of millions of health records shows levodopa delays or prevents a major cause of sight loss.

A child with head tilted backwards, being given a dose of eye drops.

Low-dose eye drops slow short-sightedness by half in growing children

Results from a 5-year study have shown that a daily dose of atropine eye drops can slow down short-sightedness (myopia) as it develops.

December

Head and shoulders pic of Irenie, smiling at the camera.
Irenie Ekkeshis

The role of patients in medical research at AMRC conference

Irenie Ekkeshis gave a patient perspective on behalf of Fight for Sight to a meeting of research charities, pharmaceutical companies and policy makers.

Exercise could help treat lazy eye

Results in adults with normal vision point to a possible future treatment for adults with amblyopia

Scientists identify variations in the AIPL1 gene that cause Leber congenital amaurosis

Research co-funded by Fight for Sight tells us which patients might benefit from gene therapy to target AIPL1 and paves the way to developing treatment.

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