Manipulating a biological process to reduce scarring after microbial keratitis

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight / National Eye Research Centre Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Lisa Hill
  • Institute: University of Birmingham
  • Region: West Midlands
  • Start date: May 2018
  • End Date: June 2020
  • Priority: Causes
  • Eye Category: Corneal & external


Microbial keratitis causes an inflammatory reaction of the cornea, which can lead to scarring and sight loss. There are no licensed treatments available currently, to prevent or reduce corneal scarring, which means patients have to undergo corneal transplants.

Autophagy is a normal biological process which can alter how the immune system responds to the infection. It is believed that dysfunctions in autophagy after microbial keratitis leads to scarring of the cornea, therefore manipulating autophagy may help to reduce scarring.

Dr Lisa Hill and her team plan to measure the levels of autophagy in corneal cells taken from patients with microbial keratitis and compare these levels to the levels of inflammation within the cornea. They will also investigate how known medicines can alter autophagy in corneal cells to try and promote healing and reduce inflammation.

Understanding the biological processes which lead to scarring of the cornea would open up an opportunity to develop new treatments as there are no licensed treatments available currently, to reduce or prevent corneal scarring and patients have to undergo corneal transplants.