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Opchat Magazine Charity PageCharity News, July to September 2019



As Macular Week ends Fight for Sight announces Scientific Funding
Vision UK reports on Fight for Sight Study needing volunteers
Andrew Brandi nears end of trek for VCHP
Read archived charity news from April to June here

As Macular Week ends Fight for Sight announces Scientific Funding

June 2019

This Macular Week, Fight for Sight announced funding for scientists at Queen’s University Belfast who hope to boost the capacity for damaged tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye to repair themselves to prevent or slow down sight loss for patients with age-related macular degeneration.

The research, led by Professor Alan Stitt, Dr Reinhold Medina and Dr Imre Lengyel at Queen's University Belfast, could lead to a new way of treating the condition.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the UK. An estimated 600,000 people are currently living with the condition, with this number set to more than double to 1.3 million by 2050.

The researchers have recently discovered that problems with the mechanisms that repair damage to these tiny blood vessels as we age may contribute to the development of this form of AMD, so they are now investigating this in more detail.

Dr Neil Ebenezer, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Fight for Sight, said:

“We’re delighted to announce funding for this project, and what better time than at the start of Macular Week 2019. Age-related macular degeneration can have a huge impact on people’s lives. This research means patients could benefit from exciting new treatments that repair damage to eye blood vessels, preventing their disease from progressing to later stages and helping to preserve their sight.”

Professor Alan Stitt from Queen's University Belfast said: “Our hope is that our work could lead to an entirely new, exciting and beneficial treatment for patients with this type of age-related macular degeneration where there are few current options.”

Why is this research needed?

People with the early stages of AMD will usually have few symptoms – but those with later stages will experience severe sight loss that hugely affects their quality of life.

There are two types of late-stage AMD. One is called ‘wet’ AMD where abnormal blood vessels start to grow underneath the retina – there are injections available that can reverse this. The other more common form is called geographic atrophy (also called ‘dry AMD’) where there is a gradual breakdown of light-sensing cells and supporting tissues within regions of the retina.

Unfortunately, there are no effective treatments that can slow down or prevent early stages of the condition from progressing to later stage blinding disease – and there is no current treatment for dry AMD.

A priority is to develop effective new treatments that can stop AMD from progressing from early to later stages. But we first need to develop a better understanding of the biology behind different forms of the condition.

What method will researchers use?

The team is investigating the role of a network of fine blood vessels that underlie the retina in the development of the most common late-stage form of AMD. These capillaries supply the outer layer of the retina with vital oxygen and nutrients and are gradually lost in patients, which happens alongside the loss of light-sensing cells and supporting tissues in dry AMD. But how and why this occurs is currently not fully understood.

Excitingly, they are already exploring the potential of drugs that can boost the capacity of blood vessels to repair themselves as a way of treating AMD. Some of these are already being tested in clinical trials for other conditions such as stroke. So this research could lead to an entirely new treatment approach to prevent or slow down sight loss in patients.

Vision UK reports on Fight for Sight Study needing volunteers

June 2019

The MED4VI Study (mobile electronic devices for visual impairment) – now looking for participants

The study, funded by Fight for Sight and run by the University of Manchester in collaboration with City, University of London, aims to discover whether mobile electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets improve quality of life for people with a visual impairment.

Although this technology has great potential to benefit people with visual impairment, there is currently little evidence of the impact of using the devices, or the effectiveness of the training programmes on offer.

Ongoing support has been found to be important when introducing users to other forms of new technology, in the form of volunteers to provide assistance and advice, therefore the study will match up some of the participants with a volunteer buddy in addition to providing training.

The research team will complete a randomised controlled trial to compare the effect of a training only model, to a scheme in which the participant completes the training and has additional ongoing support from the “buddy”. Well-being, quality of life and use of the device will be measured before and after the training, and 6 months later.

We are seeking volunteers aged 18 to 95 with a visual impairment, who are thinking of buying a mobile electronic device (such as smartphone or tablet), who may benefit from training to use the device and additional support from a volunteer, and are able to travel into Manchester or London on a regular basis for the duration of the study.

If you are interested and would like to find out more, the research team would love to hear from you.

Contact details are
Rachel Heron, Trial Project Manager – / Telephone 0161 306 2416
Chris Dickinson, Principal Investigator – / Telephone 0161 306 3874

Andrew Brandi nears end of trek for VCHP

June 2019

Andrew Brandi
Striding out to mark his 60th birthday, Andrew Brandi, has covered more ground than most – the challenge is no less than the 630 miles of the South West Coast path.

The Topcon Medical (GB) Senior Sales Manager has so far endured horrendous storms, stunning scenery and some interesting camping in the trek which is also raising sponsorship funds for Vision Care for Homeless People –

“I have always thought it is a very worthy charity, and have got to know it well through many years of supporting the Crisis at Christmas appeal with Topcon technology. This 45 day trek has seen the weather at its best and worst – the stretch between Padstow and Newquay was particularly bad for weather,” said Andrew.

Carrying his camping kit in an 18kgs load Andrew believes he will have walked the equivalent of climbing Everest four times. Starting in Minehead he has taken in the delights of Somerset, North Devon and Cornwall and is dropping down to South Devon, ready to finish at Poole Harbour on his 60th birthday, no doubt for a significant celebration.

Anyone wishing to sponsor Andrew should visit:

Elaine Styles, chair of the charity, is wishing Andrew well for the last leg –

“We set up a Challenges section on the website a few weeks ago, encouraging people to get active to raise funds, but never imagined anyone would take on quite such a challenge as this – it is amazing!”


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