London study could offer fresh hope for eye diseases | Action Medical Research

London study could offer fresh hope for eye diseases

29 January 2001
Children with blinding eye diseases might benefit from a pioneering project awarded by leading medical research charity, Action Research. Corneal grafting is the most common form of transplantation and a major way of treating and reversing blindness. As many as 60-80,000 people undergo surgery across the world each year, offering fresh hope to a wide range of patients. But about a quarter of all these grafts fail within 5 years, and in some groups of patients - especially children or those with eye infections - the majority are rapidly rejected. Experts in London are now studying ways of combating this frustrating rejection, thanks to funding of almost £125,000 by Action Research - a charity which funds research at the cutting edge of medicine. Leading the team, Dr Andrew George, of the Department of Immunology, Hammersmith Hospital, London, says: ‘Because blindness can cause severe disability, corneal transplantation can have a major impact on the quality of life of patients, and there are approximately 3,000 grafts a year in the UK. ‘But there are still milestones to be made in improving the success rate of such operations. It’s fundamental we generate improved techniques, to give some patients the treatment they truly need.‘ The project is a joint study between Hammersmith Hospital and London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital. It has been made possible following a previous grant - also funded by Action Research - in which researchers investigated how the transplanted cornea was destroyed. After many operations, the graft is often regarded as a foreign body and the immune system kicks in, attacking the tissue. Researchers are now hoping to damp down this over-reactive immune response by making the cornea produce protective molecules - like those normally used by viruses to defend themselves. These molecules will mask the cornea, thereby confusing the immune system and stopping it attacking the graft. Action Research launched its Touching Lives Campaign in early 2000, which aims to raise £1.5m for vital medical research to benefit children and families across the UK. Visit the website at For further information, please contact Nicole Duckworth in the Action Research press office on 01403 327403 Fax: 01403 210541, or email
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