Fight for Sight chooses World Sight Day 2018 to announce funding for glaucoma research

Fight for Sight has chosen World Sight Day 2018 (11 October) to announce funding for a research project that will develop personalized medicine for patients at risk of glaucoma from steroid use.

Tom Beare was diagnosed with steroid induced glaucoma

Professor Colin Willoughby from Ulster University has been awarded a £170,000 project grant over three years to better understand the genetic basis for steroid-induced eye pressure. The aim is to develop a genetic test that will predict how a patient will respond to steroids, which are widely used to treat a range of eye conditions.

This study will be the first of its kind because previous studies have not been able to analyzed such a large sample size. The project will involve blood samples being taken from approximately 400 patients who have consistently been treated with steroids. The samples will then be analyses using a panel of genetic markers to understand the underlying genetic basis for the condition.

While steroids are one of the most common and widely used treatments for many eye conditions including inflammation, they can unfortunately cause an increase in eye pressure. This steroid response currently cannot be predicted so it is unknown which individuals will be at risk.

Tom Beare was 70 years old when he was diagnosed with steroid induced glaucoma. He said:

For many years I had high intra ocular pressure in my eyes. However, the glaucoma only appeared after I was on high doses of steroids. Luckily for me it was detected in the early stages, but that is not always the case for everyone. Research like this is vital as it would be extremely helpful to have tailored treatments which would lead to better outcomes for patients.”

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

Using genetics to better understand conditions such as glaucoma and to develop a personalized approach for treatment is an exciting area that is being increasingly explored through pioneering scientific research. The ability to predict those patients that are likely to get steroid-induced glaucoma will make a real difference to the treatment that thousands of patients receive. Clinicians will be able to personalize therapies that are tailored to individual patients thereby reducing adverse events.”

Professor Willoughby from Ulster University, said:

I am delighted that Fight for Sight have funded this study which involves a network of ophthalmologists from all across the UK and Ireland contributing clinical data and DNA samples. This network and support from Fight for Sight will be a significant resource to study the genetics of the steroid response and develop genetic tests to personalize treatment and target NHS resources to patients at risk of complication. Understanding the genetic basis of steroid-induced eye pressure will provide knowledge about the development of glaucoma and potentially new therapeutic targets.”

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