Research Funding

We provide a scheme of grant funding for research projects in ophthalmology which is operated through the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. The grants awarded in 2015/16 are:


Diabetic Retinopathy 

Dr Shareen Forbes, University of Edinburgh: 'Impact of insulin pump therapy and islet transplantation on progression of diabetic retinopathy in type 1 diabetes'

Diabetes is a major cause of blindness through retinopathy. People with diabetes are screened for retinal problems, and so it is important to know which patient groups are most at risk of sight problems developing and the best time to do the screening.  Insulin pump therapy and transplantation of “islets” into the liver both improve a patient’s control of their blood glucose levels, but no-one has yet discovered the speed with which that affects, if at all, the patient’s susceptibility to eye problems. The study will combine monitoring of each patient’s blood glucose fluctuation with the progression of retinopathy.


Retinal Gene Therapy

Professor Robert MacLaren, University of Oxford: 'Optimising gene therapy treatments for dominant Retinitis Pigmentosa to improve patient safety' 

Most cases of retinitis pigmentosa are caused by a defective gene which makes a defective protein that has toxic effects on light sensing cells in the retina known as photoreceptors. Retinal gene therapy is a new technology which allows genetic modification of the photoreceptor cells. The therapy takes good DNA into the defective cells using a virus. We have been funding Prof MacLaren to conduct research on various aspects of the development of this therapy over the last few years. One problem the researchers have hit against is the risk of the virus picking up other bits of DNA strand, in particular DNA of bacteria that have an anti-biotic resistance gene or that cause inflammation in the eye following treatment.  The project will test and develop ways of modifying the way the virus is produced in order to minimise the risk of bacterial DNA being present in it when it is used in the eye.

Cornea Treatment

Professor John Forrester, University of Aberdeen: 'In-vitro responses of dendritic cells to crosslinked recombinant human collagen hydrogels in corneal regeneration for pre-clinical applications'

This project is about the treatment of the cornea, the front surface of the eye. Two years ago we funded a study which aimed to discover and test biomaterials used for grafts by determining how the mechanism of rejection operates in each case. Last year we funded a project to examine how the recipient of the graft generates an immune response using lab cultures and microscopy.  This project looks specifically at a range of synthetic materials made from human collagen and tests them by putting them beside immune system cell samples in the lab to see if the reaction that causes rejection occurs.

Using peptides to treat corneal infections 

Dr Harminder Dua, University of Nottingham: 'Evaluation of antimicrobial peptide synergism against ocular surface pathogens'

Corneal blindness is second only to cataracts as a cause of blindness worldwide. This project looks at how corneal infections respond to new kinds of treatment that are emerging for bacterial and fungal infections.  Anti-biotics are prone to resistant strains of bacteria developing, but scientists are now developing the use of peptides that are produced by mammals’ cells that kill bacteria and do not seem to have the same problem of resistance. This study will look at infected corneal tissue in the lab and the molecular mechanisms at work when using peptides.

Linking factors in glaucoma patients

Dr Andrew Tatham, University of Edinburgh: 'The Scottish Glaucoma Biobank: Developing a national resource for the study of disease mechanisms, risk markers for blindness and novel drug discovery in glaucoma'

Much is still unknown about the causes of glaucoma. This study aims to gather information about people who have glaucoma to establish any linking factors and in a later second phase will take skin biopsy specimens to grow them into optic nerve type cells and examine them.

Cornea Surgery

Dr Harminder Dua, University of Nottingham: 'Pre-Descemet’s endothelial keratoplasty: Understanding the science, developing the surgery'

This is a project to perfect ways of operating on the cornea at a microscopic level.  In recent work, Dr Dua has discovered a membrane layer that could usefully be utilised, but needs new techniques and tools to separate it from surrounding tissue and transplant it, and for the best procedure to be set down and standardised so that the method can be used with confidence and at low risk.

If you are interesting in applying for funding please contact the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.