Retinal Therapies

In the Retinal Therapies theme, we investigate the processes that lead to diseases of nerve cells at the back of the eye, particularly the light-sensitive retina and the optic nerve.

These diseases include the common blinding conditions of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD): diseases for which there are currently no cures. Using advanced experimental techniques, including specialist imaging and electrophysiology, we aim to unravel the complex steps that lead to the death of these critical nerve cells in order to develop and target effective protective therapies. We are currently investigating a number of promising “neuroprotective” strategies including enhanced antioxidant compounds and unique silk extracts. Ultimately, we aim to slow down or even stop the degeneration of vital nerve cells and reduce the loss of vision currently associated with retinal disease.

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Towards an effective treatment for glaucoma: Dynamic detection of retinal oxidative status and the effect of antioxidants

A natural biological process known as oxidative stress has been linked to the cause of glaucoma, a degenerative eye disease accounting for 12% of worldwide blindness. This project utilises novel research tools and new antioxidant compounds to investigate directly the mechanisms of oxidative stress in the eye. The findings should aid the development of new treatments for glaucoma and AMD, and even translate to conditions beyond eye diseases.

Using silk to protect the retina from degeneration

Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are the two leading causes of irreversible blindness. Current treatments are unable to prevent the progressive vision loss that is due to retinal cell degeneration. This is an investigation into whether extracts from silk can be used to prevent retinal cells from dying in degenerative diseases like glaucoma and AMD. Using cultures of retinal cells and other models of retinal disease, we are studying the activity of silk extracts to determine how they may protect the retina from the underlying causes of cell death, e.g. oxidative stress

Biomarkers for the treatment and prognosis of sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy (DR), especially sight-threatening diabetic retinopathy (STDR) is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in adults. Given that the primary causes of sight lose in patients with DR is retinal neovascularization, angiogenic factors such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and growth hormone (GH)/insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) have been studied as therapeutic targets and potential biomarkers. However, assessment of and decision on the current treatment strategies are difficult as there are no reliable predictive and prognostic biomarkers yet. Further comprehensive investigations are needed to confirm the value of these potential biomarkers in predicting the development and the treatment effect of DR. This project will help to predict risks of STDR and reduce diabetes-induced blindness as well as to seek potentially effective treatments.