Undertsanding the way scars form in the eyelids of people with trachoma

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Maryse Bailly
  • Institute: UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Region: London
  • Start date: December 2015
  • End Date: May 2016
  • Priority: Causes
  • Eye Category: Ocular inflammatory


Trachoma is a scarring condition of the upper eyelid and is the leading infectious cause of blindness worldwide. It is a major health problem in over 50 countries – 40 million people have active trachoma, with 8 million in need of surgical treatment.

The team has developed a laboratory ‘model’ to study scarring in trachoma using cells originally from the eyelids of patients in Tanzania and from matching healthy ‘control’ individuals. Affected cells tighten more than control cells in lab tests. They produce more collagen (the main component of scars) and create scar-like tissue that is more stiff.

The team has also discovered a number of DNA ‘markers’ in the lab-grown trachoma cells that are linked to the way these cells form scars in their tests. So in this project, they’re aiming to confirm that the markers are actually linked to scarring in patients (rather than just in the lab-grown cells).  They’re looking at how the markers are distributed in tissue sections from the lining of the eyelid (the conjunctiva) in trachoma patients and controls.

The lab model means the team can now study how trachoma progresses and test potential treatments. For the first time they also now have a list of molecules that could be used to develop targets for treatment or help predict a person’s prognosis. In the longer term, results from the project could lead to treatments that can prevent scarring and blindness in trachoma