Wednesday 21st March 2018
Past Research

Eye Research


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The funding of The Humane Research Trust laboratory is on-going and reviewed at that end of every 3 year period.

PROJECT TITLE:  Grenville Hawkins Memorial Scholarship

PROJECT TIMESCALE:  1 year scholarship – 2014 to 2015 Master of Research

RESEARCHER:  Matthew McDonald





A couple of papers from the lab were recently published in the top eye research journal, IOVS.

One of the papers concerns a condition known as Pterygium, which is seen as a fleshy tissue growth across the cornea, the front surface of the eye. Using cells grown from pterygium specimens removed by surgery, we identified that serum starvation (which mimicks a reduced blood supply) causes reduced calcium signalling and growth in pterygial-derived fibroblasts. Our findings support the therapeutic strategy to suppress the vascular network in pterygium.

The other paper is concerned with delaying the onset of cataract, which is a global health care priority. We investigated the ability of a molecule called sulforaphane (SFN), which is abundant in vegetables such as broccoli, to perform this function.  We demonstrated that SFN provides marked protection against oxidative stress in human lens epithelial cells and in the intact lens. A SFN-rich diet or use of supplements could delay cataract formation.

APRIL  2013 – Latest Information Leaflet From The Norwich Eye Research Group – UEA

Download the latest information leaflet from the Norwich Eye Group by clicking on the link below, or contact us for a copy.

2013 UEA Leaflet



Dr Michael Wormstone

Publications are an important measure of success. We have recently published two papers, one either side of Christmas. The first paper entitled “Sigma 1 Receptor Stimulation Protects against Oxidative Damage through Suppression of the ER Stress Responses in the Human Lens” was published in Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. The lens within the eye is constantly exposed to lots of different types of stress. A major stress, believed to play a role in cataract formation (a clouding of the lens), is oxidative stress. In this paper we show that oxidative stress promotes a further type of stress within the cell known as ER stress, which can lead to reduced production of proteins and if sufficiently great, cell death. We have identified a receptor within lens cells that can regulate ER stress. This receptor is called sigma receptor 1 and if stimulated can successfully manage the ER stress and prevent cell death. Future work will explore how this phenomenon can be exploited to offset cataract formation.

The second paper is entitled “Age-related differences in signaling efficiency of human lens cells underpin differential wound healing response rates following cataract surgery” and is published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. This paper deals with posterior capsule opacifciation, which is the most common complication of cataract surgery; clinical incidence is age-dependent. To study this phenomenon, age-related differences were determined using a human in vitro tissue culture model developed by the laboratory. Using this model we can observe more rapid wound-healing in tissue prepared from young donors versus older donors. Interestingly, we found that availability of growth promoting factors was not a limiting factor, but the ability to use this resource of growth stimulants through activation of signaling pathways within the cell declines with age.


Double success!It has been a good month in the lab as we had a paper accepted for publication in the top eye journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual sciences (or IOVS for short) and obtained external funding for a project from Fight for Sight. The paper identifies molecules that are capable of breaking down the material on which cells grow termed the matrix. The molecules that change the matrix allow cells to contort it, which causes light scatter as if looking through scrunched up clingfilm. By identifying these molecules we can now start to develop approaches to prevent their actions after cataract surgery and potentially help millions of patients in the future.

A major feature of the valuable support we receive from The Humane Research Trust is the provision of infrastructure, which greatly aids our ability to attract additional funding for projects from other sources. In this case, a project funded by Fight for Sight (as a collaboration between the laboratory and Mr David Spalton, an eminent consultant ophthalmologist based in London) will support an investigation into the biological mechanisms of a new type of artificial lens implanted in the eye following cataract surgery. We hope that understanding these mechanisms will aid the development of a new generation of implants and again benefit patients through this approach.



The Eye Research Group

The Trust’s Laboratory at the University of East Anglia is dedicated entirely to non-animal techniques and is a world leader in research into cataract and other eye diseases.The Trusts’ Grant programme at the Laboratory embraces many areas:-

Cataract Research

Dr Michael Wormstone. This project has investigated the secondary lens cell growth, which occurs after cataract surgery, studying the factors that influence the growth and ways in which it can be inhibited. The team is now exploring ways of delivering new treatments to lens implants. We are delighted to acknowledge the generous assistance of the Community Fund in funding this project.

Human Tissue Lectureship

The Trust has agreed to fund the first five years of a Lectureship in Human Tissue Technology, which will be held by Dr Wormstone. This will enable Dr Wormstone to pass on to a new generation of researchers the expertise he has gained in human tissue techniques. After the Trust’s initial guarantee period, the University will take on the commitment, so the Lectureship will be a permanent appointment.

The Trust provides annual grant support, which funds Postgraduate Studentships teaching human technques as well as helping with the work of the laboratory generally.


Author: glewis