HRH Prince Michael of Kent helps celebrate research into eye disease

His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent GCVO joined supporters of Yorkshire Eye Research yesterday to recognise ground-breaking research into eye disease at the University of Leeds.

Following its launch in 2000 as the northern branch of the National Eye Research Centre (NERC), Yorkshire Eye Research has raised more than £600,000 to support projects identifying the causes, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of eye disease. These include work by University of Leeds researchers to develop a simple DNA screening test for the most common form of glaucoma, a condition that affects  one in 50 UK adults. Researchers are also investigating why premature babies are at risk of retinal damage, resulting in severe sight loss in early infancy, and the causes of three devastating diseases that cause childhood blindness - inherited retinitis pigmentosa, cone-rod dystrophy and microcornea.

The charity is additionally raising money to secure a Chair in Clinical Ophthalmology within the Section of Ophthalmology and Neurosciences at the University of Leeds. This post would help promote high quality clinical research in Yorkshire and complement the existing vision science teams.

Prince Michael of Kent was visiting the University in his role as Patron of the NERC, a role he has held for 24 years. During his visit he was briefed on ongoing eye research and toured the laboratory facilities at the Leeds Institute of Molecular Medicine. HRH Prince Michael also met eye researchers and supporters of Yorkshire Eye Research who raise funds for the charity's work.

Professor Chris Inglehearn, Professor of Molecular Ophthalmology at the University of Leeds, said: "With support from Yorkshire Eye Research, we are working with local patients to find out why people go blind. We then work closely with the Eye Department here at St James's University Hospital and with teams in other Yorkshire hospitals to get a clearer picture of the likely outcome for each patient. We additionally assess the success of existing treatments, as well as searching for and trying out new treatments."

"Our work with very premature babies is a good example of this collaborative approach. Many of these babies suffer from a disorder called "retinopathy of prematurity" (ROP) and as a result lose their sight. ROP is a major cause of childhood blindness and as more and more premature babies survive the incidence of ROP is increasing. Thanks to the support of Yorkshire Eye Research and a close working relationship with clinical colleagues, we are researching the causes of ROP so that in the future we can save the sight of these premature babies."

Money from Yorkshire Eye Research has also been used to purchase of two specialised cameras (Retcams) that can produce high quality standardised views of the back of babies' eyes. Images from these cameras can be sent for further opinion electronically, allowing doctors from different hospitals - or even different countries - to contribute to the diagnosis and offer advice on the best course of treatment.

Dr Ian Simmons, Consultant Ophthalmologist with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Leeds said: "The Retcam has revolutionised the care of children with eye tumours, premature children with immature retinal blood vessels and children who have suffered non-accidental injury. We now have two cameras; one in the children's intensive care unit at Leeds General Infirmary and one in the eye department at St James's University Hospital. Both units have been purchased through generous donations via Yorkshire Eye Research."

For further information:

Paula Gould, University of Leeds press office: Tel 0113 343 8059, email

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