Cells For Sight


New research programme into Aniridia to go ahead at Moorfields Eye Hospital

25 April 2012


New research that could offer hope to young people and adults suffering from a type of corneal blindness is to get underway at Moorfields Eye Hospital and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, thanks to an outstanding fundraising campaign by a determined Northumberland-based family.

Aniridia is an eye disease that affects one in 100,000 people. It can lead to blindness by affecting several parts of the eye.  The new research programme, led by Professor Julie Daniels, under the umbrella of her ‘Cells for Sight transplantation and research programme’, will investigate how cell-to-cell communication is disrupted in the cornea during the progression of aniridia-related keratopathy. The team’s ultimate aim is to develop a cell therapy solution to help patients retain their sight for longer.

Over £65,000 has been raised by Mrs Elly Chapple and her family for the Moorfields Eye Charity‘Shine the light on Aniridia’ campaign. The Chapple’s daughter Ella, has aniridia and glaucoma in her right eye. The funds they raised have been matched by the ‘Cells for Sight’ programme to enable the research to get underway. The first important milestone as a result of the fundraising initiative has been the appointment of ophthalmic scientist Dr Victoria Tovell, who will work to develop a human model of the aniridia-related keratopathy disease. 

To date, Moorfields and the Cells for Sight team, have had some success in using stem cell therapy to treat some adults with advanced aniridia. Building on the results of that work - and early data from previous stem cell research - the team decided to focus on the role of defective communication between stem cells and their supporting cells in the cornea.

Professor Julie Daniels said: “By focusing on this aspect of the disease we can begin to answer why cell communication breaks down.  This is an important first step in learning how the disease progresses.  The research programme is very challenging but if it succeeds it will literally ‘shine a light’ on the understanding we need to develop therapies to prevent progression of aniridia-induced corneal blindness in younger people.

“We are delighted to be at the forefront of this exciting new programme of research. We could not undertake this without the money raised by the Chapple family. It is a huge boost to our work which has the potential in future years to make a difference to the lives of children like Ella Chapple  whose sight will need saving.” 

Donations to the Moorfields Eye Charity ‘Shine the Light on Anirida’Campaign are on going and more details on how to donate are available on 020 7566 2565 or by email to eyecharity@moorfields.nhs.uk 

For more information about Aniridia: 



Published 19 December 2011 on Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS webpage

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