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British Council for the Prevention of Blindness

Training New Leaders

There is a great need for trained eyecare personnel in the developing world. That is why one of the key Vision 2020 objectives is to build up the eyecare resources in developing countries by providing specialist training, from community level to policy planning at national and regional level.

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Developing Treatments

Detailed and practical operational research to discover the best methods of treating and preventing blindness is the hallmark of BCPB-funded research.

Genetic Keys To Age Related Macular Degeneration

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in the UK. This condition strikes those over 50 and blinds some 43,000 people a year in the UK alone.

Current treatment options are limited. Professor Lotery and his team at Southampton University are looking at the possible genetic basis of AMD. They are examining the genes linked to the disease and have already made findings which are likely to result in new treatments.Their work has helped to confirm that there is a genetic link to the disease. In fact, the disease has a genetic cause in up to 75% of cases. Professor Lotery's findings suggest that there maybe a link to the body's immune response and torelated inflammation.

The research indicates that a particular genetic protein whose job it is to put the brake on this inflammation may be faulty in many people who go on to develop AMD. In the past 12 months they have confirmed that the complement factor H gene is an important cause of AMD and have begun to look at how having this faulty gene influences response to treatments available now. People with the faulty gene have different forms of wet AMD and seem to respond differently to laser treatment. The findings need to be confirmed in larger studies, but suggest that testing patients for these gene changes may be useful in the future. Modern advances in gene testing technology make this feasible. New treatments for wet AMD have been in the news recently, with two drugs being of particular interest - avastin and lucentis. Dr Lotery and his team are part of a large multi-centre trial which will compare these two drugs to see which is better for patients. As part of the trial they also aim to take blood samples from patients having these treatments to identify which faulty AMD genes the patients have inherited. They aim to see if there are differences in response to treatment depending on the genes which the patients carry. This could result in customised treatments for patients, depending on their genetic background.

Professor Andrew Lotery of Southampton University