In this section

Investing in cell biology

Corneal epithelial cells beta4 integrin magenta, paxillin yellowAim: The Department of Eye and Vision Science had bioengineering teams and clinical teams, but were short of the cell biologists, the essential people who figure out how cells interact with their environment. To fill this skills gap, in 2013 they recruited Dr Kevin Hamill, form of the Northwestern University in Chicago, an internationally established researcher into cell biology.

What was funded? We covered the costs of Kevin’s wages, which enabled him to bring in over £1.5 million of external funding into the department which has supported 10 PhD students and four post-doctoral researchers, who are researching into eye disease and new treatments.

What’s been achieved? The team:

  • Have found a new protein that controls how cells interact during wound repair, essential when the cornea, the clear window of the eye, has been damaged and needs to heal. This work impacts how eye lid cancer is treated too.
  • Are testing a potential new treatment for aniridia (an incomplete or missing iris).
  • Have investigated new treatments for keratoconus, a cone shaped cornea which distorts vision. This resulted in discovering how the current treatment works which was unknown which will has set the benchmark for development of treatments.
  • Researched how sunscreen is applied to the eyelids and the impact this can have.