Touching Lives - September 2004
New study on retinal detachment
A team of eye specialists at Addenbrooke’s NHS Trust in Cambridge is being funded by Action Medical Research to examine the genetic influences that can lead to detachment of the retina.
They have enlisted the help of hundreds of people in the first large-scale study of its kind and hope that in 18 months they will have some clear data on how genes influence the condition and, most importantly, on how those at risk can be identified and treated early on.
Consultant Mr Martin Snead is heading the team, which has been awarded the £110,000 grant. Working with him are Dr Allan Richards, consultant surgeon Arabella Poulson, research co-ordinator Gillian Whitmore and Sisters Lindsay O’Shea and Annie McNinch.
Mr Snead said, “We are trying to identify the risk factors, because ^we believe most cases of retinal detachment are avoidable^. We just don’t have a way of knowing who is at risk and who is not.
“We are looking at the genes of two groups of patients; one set have had detachment of the retina and another set haven’t. Most are aged between 40 and 60.
“We know already that genetic influences play an important role in the condition — Stickler syndrome, for example, is the most common cause of retinal detachment in children — but we aim to expand this research to the wider adult population so that we can identify other patients at risk. This in turn will lead to strategies for prevention.”
Surgery can repair a detached retina, but ^often the patient continues to suffer diminished vision^. Some people can be affected in both eyes, with devastating consequences.
With so many new cases a year, finding ways to prevent retinal detachment will have a major impact. Mr Snead added, “It’s a condition that can affect all ages but there have been no recent large-scale studies to investigate the genetic risk factors. Hopefully in 18 months’ time, we’ll have the results that will make prevention a possibility.”