In 2017, a successful appeal by National Eye Research Centre provided funding for a major three year research project into diabetic retinopathy at the University of Nottingham, under the auspices of Professor David Bates.

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. Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which causes blood vessels at the back of the eye to 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.

Professor David BatesIt 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 funding this research project. Thousands of patients could ultimately benefit from this research as new treatments are discovered and brought into mainstream healthcare.

Professor Bates 

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 results so far have been highly promising, as the researchers have multiple pieces of evidence that blocking the effects of SRPK1 is a viable treatment for diabetic retinopathy. In addition, the fact that the drug can be administered as an eye-drop rather than direct injections into the eye is advantageous as it is easier for the patients and a cheaper form of treatment. Through these results, the research group have also gained a further understanding of diabetic retinopathy as a disease, and are beginning to dissect how their pilot drug is producing its effects.

In 2017, National Eye Research Centre raised £103,000 needed for this project, 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. Thank you to all of our generous supporters who have helped fund this major project.

The video above hows consultant ophthalmologist Dr Clare Bailey explaining more about diabetic retinopathy.

Learn more about the symptoms and treatment of diabetic retinopathy.

Please help us continue to fund pioneering research like this by donating to our diabetic retinopathy appeal.