A successful appeal by National Eye Research Centre has provided funding for a major new piece of research into diabetic retinopathy at the University of Nottingham, under the auspices of Professor David Bates. In diabetic patients blood vessels in the back of the eye leak. Currently, this can only be treated by regular injections into the eye. However, chemicals that could prevent this leakiness when given as eye drops have recently been identified. The properties of these chemicals allow them to build up in the outer part of the eye (the sclera) while they are slowly released into the inner layer, where the blood vessels leak as they grow into the back of the eye. These chemicals inhibit the production of a protein that makes these vessels leak – a protein called Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor or ‘VEGF’. The aim of this three year research project is to find out if these chemicals will work in diabetic retinopathy by preventing leakage of fluid into the retina by acting on the way cells make VEGF. Finally, the research will aim to show that these anti-VEGF treatments can prevent blood vessel growth before progressing to clinical trials.

Professor David Bates

On learning of the success of the appeal, Professor Bates (pictured) said, “Diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the working age population of the UK with around 750,000 people believed to have ‘background diabetic retinopathy’ which may eventually progress to total blindness. It is vitally important that we find new treatments to combat this widespread and life-changing condition. I am so grateful to National Eye Research Centre for launching this appeal and bringing it to a successful conclusion. Thousands of patients could ultimately benefit from this research as new treatments are discovered and brought into mainstream healthcare.”

Mike Daw, Chief Executive of National Eye Research Centre, said, “Every year our independent Scientific Advisory Committee recommends many excellent eye research projects for funding but, regrettably, we never have enough money to fund all of them. Nevertheless, we felt we couldn’t let such an important piece of research as this, with so much potential for patient benefit, go unfunded, so we set up a special appeal to raise the £103,000 needed. Our supporters agreed and responded magnificently, with significant gifts from the Masonic Charitable Foundation, the Robert McAlpine Foundation, the Bill Brown 1989 Charitable Settlement and the Carmen Butler Charteris Charitable Trust as well as hundreds of smaller gifts from individual supporters. Without their help this project would not have been funded and more people would have gone blind before new treatments could be found”.

Masonic Charitable Foundation logo

The accompanying video shows consultant ophthalmologist Dr Clare Bailey explaining more about diabetic retinopathy.

Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.