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Ulster University wins prestigious funding to cure vision loss

Dr Bridgeen Callan Dr Bridgeen Callan

Ulster University has secured almost £100,000 from a prestigious research funding trust to develop a revolutionary treatment for an eye condition that has caused blindness in more than 250,000 people in the UK alone.

Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is the third leading cause of blindness worldwide and the commonest cause of severe visual impairment in older adults in the developed world.

The funding secured from the Dowager Countess Eleanor Peel Trust will support Ulster University in a 2-year study into new therapies for a specific type of age related macular degeneration known as wet AMD.

Wet AMD is more serious than dry AMD. If left untreated it can cause a permanent loss of central vision. Current treatment is an injection into the eyeball. It is a successful but uncomfortable treatment that can lead to other complications such as infection and must be carried out at the hospital eye clinic every two months until the disease is controlled.

The team behind Ulster University's research will work to discover a new and effective eye drop treatment that patients can self-administer to treat wet AMD. The new eye drops will help to reduce the symptoms and stop the disease from getting progressively worse.

Ulster University's Dr Bridgeen Callan said: "Ulster University's new research is about finding an alternative mechanism to get the drug into the eye without using an injection. The risk of infection from the current injection based treatment can lead to other eye complications and the invasive nature can cause pain and discomfort.

"Our research will focus on adapting the drug to make it more adhesive. This will allow the drug to be administered by eye drops that cannot be washed away by tears.

"The potential for treating this chronic disease in this way is huge and if successful could be used to treat countless patients in the UK and around the world."