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 2017/18 are:

 

CRISPR gene therapy 

Professor Robert MacLaren, University of Oxford: “Development of a CRISPR gene therapy system for treating inherited retinal degenerations”

Gene therapy has great potential to treat inherited forms of blindness, such as retinitis pigmentosa and possibly age-related macular degeneration. This project will combine gene therapy with the new technique of gene editing. The plan is to use a modified virus to switch off a gene in mice that makes light-sensing cells fluorescent green, and assess the new technology carefully. With a better understanding of the mechanism they will be able in future to plan a more direct approach of treating a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. Ultimately the aim is to be able to use the technique, once tried and tested, on patients.

 

Retinitis Pigmentosa 

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 antibiotic 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.

 

Retinoblastoma 

Mandeep Sagoo, Moorfields Eye Hospital: “New mechanisms and treatment targets in retinoblastoma”

Retinoblastoma is the commonest eye cancer in children. It has a genetic cause, the Rb1 gene mutation, a tumour suppressor gene.  30% of children with this condition will lose an eye to save their life, and treatment outcomes are hard to predict. The project will study (by genome sequencing and other techniques) mutations that happen after the Rb1 mutation that may confer resistance to treatment. It will also look at some of the proteins that those mutations produce. This will help to find targeted treatments so that more eyes can be saved with fewer treatments.

 

Glaucoma treatment 

Dr Hari Jayaram, University College London: “Controlled elevation of intraocular pressure in rodent glaucoma and investigation of its impact on retinal ganglion cell organisation within the retina”

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. Sight loss from glaucoma develops due to raised eye pressure damaging the nerve that connects the eye to the brain. Currently, raised eye pressure is the only recognised risk factor that treatments can address. Experimental models of glaucoma can be unpredictable, but a new approach recently developed in the USA is able to more reliably mimic early glaucoma in the laboratory. This project will help develop research into new treatments for glaucoma in the UK.

 

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