Footballer Michael Owen has announced he will run the London Marathon to support Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and scientists from The University of Manchester in their mission to find new treatments for families with genetic eye disorders.
The former England striker who played for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City said he hoped his support would help scientists and doctors develop new treatments for patients with inherited eye disorders – where currently there is no available cure.
The University of Manchester, in partnership with Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which runs Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, is making a major contribution to the future of genetic medicine through the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine.
Many of these rare genetic diseases are currently untreatable but Graeme Black, Professor of Genetics at The University of Manchester and Honorary Consultant in Genetics at Saint Mary's Hospital Manchester together with Professor Chris Lloyd, Consultant Paediatric Ophthalmologist at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital refuse to accept this for the future. They are working hard with their colleagues to accelerate research in this area and aim to improve treatments available to patients and families affected by genetic eye diseases. These include cataracts in young children and blindness caused by inherited diseases of the retina.
This highly specialised research aims to identify new gene variants that cause disease in the eye. It will enable doctors and researchers to better understand how such eye problems develop as well as opening up the possibility of genetic screening, better and more specific management of eye diseases and the potential for targeted therapies.
Their research has already led to improvements for patients and their families. A new test developed for inherited eye disease has increased diagnostic pick-up rates from 15% to over 60%.
This year Manchester Royal Eye Hospital is marking the bicentenary of its foundation and hopes to raise funds to improve the children’s outpatient clinic, ensuring it is equipped with the very best diagnostic equipment for children. This equipment will not only help in diagnosis but also support research into children’s eye disease.
Michael said: “The work being done at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and by scientists at The University of Manchester is really helping to get new treatments to families with genetic eye disorders sooner. It’s a cause that’s very close to my heart and I hope my support will boost their quest to find more treatments for patients.”
Professor Lloyd said: “We are absolutely delighted to have Michael's support for the fundraising being undertaken in this the 200th year of the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital through his run in the London Marathon.”
Professor Black, who heads the Manchester Centre for Genomic Medicine, added: “Manchester has developed an integrated clinical and research team that represents one of the largest clinical paediatric and eye services in Europe helping us to advance developments in Genomic Medicine.
“We are developing internationally-recognised gene testing protocols for diagnosis and exploring the development of new treatments for genetic disorders of the eye and improving treatments for childhood cataract. We are also improving participation in world-leading clinical trials.
“We have no doubt that Michael's support will further accelerate these developments.”
The University of Manchester, a member of the Russell Group, is one of the largest and most popular universities in the UK. It has 20 academic schools and hundreds of specialist research groups undertaking pioneering multi-disciplinary teaching and research of worldwide significance. According to the results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, The University of Manchester is one of the country’s major research institutions, rated third in the UK in terms of ‘research power’. The University has an annual income of £807 million and is ranked 40th in the world and fifth in the UK for the quality of its teaching and impact of its research.
Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is a leading provider of specialist healthcare services in Manchester, treating more than a million patients every year. Its eight specialist hospitals (Manchester Royal Infirmary, Saint Mary’s Hospital, Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital, University Dental Hospital of Manchester and Trafford Hospitals) are home to hundreds of world class clinicians and academic staff committed to finding patients the best care and treatments. (www.cmft.nhs.uk)