£3k boost for pioneering sight loss study

A pioneering research study aiming to improve the diagnosis and treatment of the UK’s most common form of sight loss has received a financial boost.

The Hospital Saturday Fund has awarded a £3,000 grant to leading sight loss charity the Macular Society for the project, which is being carried out by a team of scientists at Newcastle University, to gain a greater understanding of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and how to identify and treat the condition.

Macular Society senior trusts and philanthropy officer Ruth Paley received a cheque on the charity’s behalf from John Greenwood, chairman of the Hospital Saturday Fund, in London.

The Macular Society is funding the two-year project, which uses stem cell technology to recreate some of the key features of AMD in a controlled laboratory environment. It examines whether exosomes – small bubble-like structures – released by cells in the retina play a role in the development of AMD. It also aims to identify if existing drugs that affect exosome production elsewhere in the body could be effective in the retina.

In addition, the study aims to find out if specific types of exosomes can act as markers of AMD and identify those who may be most at risk of developing the condition.

Emma Malcolm, Macular Society director of fundraising and marketing, said:

“A donation like this makes such a difference in the fight against macular disease and we can’t thank the Hospital Saturday Fund enough for its support. It’s our ultimate aim to end this cruel and isolating condition and research like this is absolutely key to that.

“At present, more than 300 people are diagnosed with macular disease every day and that cannot continue. We’re investing heavily in medical research so that a cure can be found as a matter of urgency and will continue to do so until macular disease has been eradicated forever.”

Paul Jackson, chief executive at the Hospital Saturday Fund, commented:

“We are delighted to be able to support this pioneering work that the Macular Society is undertaking. This is an innovative research project into AMD and we are excited to see how this will support those suffering with this devastating disease and eventually eradicate it entirely.”

Macular disease is the biggest cause of sight loss in the UK. Nearly 1.5 million people are currently affected and many more are at risk. The disease can have a devastating effect on people’s lives, leaving them unable to drive, read or see faces. Many people affected describe losing their sight as being similar to bereavement. There is still no cure and most types of the disease are not treatable. AMD is the most common form of macular disease, affecting more than 600,000 people, usually over the age of 50.

For more information on macular disease, call the Macular Society on 0300 30 30 111.