UCL secures blindness research funding
22 October 2008
UCL's Institute of Ophthalmology is to launch a three-year research project with charity RP Fighting Blindness into potential treatments for a genetic blinding disease.
The bodies have won a £247,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund to investigate treatments for the condition retinitis pigmentosa, the core focus of the RP Fighting Blindness Charity.
The disease affects around 25,000 people in the UK and two million worldwide.
It is caused by flaws in a number of genes that lead to the death of photoreceptor cells in the retina - the cells that convert light into signals to the brain and enable us to see.
Mike Cheetham, UCL professor of molecular cell biology and head of UCL Neuroscience's division of molecular and cellular neuroscience, is leading a team on a new project looking at the potential for using advanced drugs - already approved to treat other conditions - to arrest the deteroriation in the sight of RP sufferers.
The team will now expand on its laboratory research into the effects of the drugs on the negative effects of mutations in rhodopsin, one of the most common causes in RP.
"We now aim to continue the pre-clinical development of these drugs and test if these potential treatments can be taken closer to the clinic," said Professor Cheetham.
"If this approach is successful, it could soon be translated as one of the first treatments for rhodopsin RP."
RP Fighting Blindness chief executive David Head added: "This is a significant grant and will advance our fight against RP considerably. There is currently no cure, but there are several very promising threads of research underway that could lead to treatment, of which this is one. It's fantastic news for people with RP, who are anxious of course that every possible avenue of research is followed up."
The project, which is also backed by Moorfields Eye Hospital, will begin early next year.