Fight for Sight Lifeline


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Fight for Sight

TV presenter Judy Finnigan appeals on behalf of Fight for Sight, a charity that raises funds to support vital medical research into a wide range of eye conditions.


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I've always had an eye for beauty.

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When you look through a lens you see things rather more clearly.

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It's a wonderful feeling.

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You do feel part of what you are seeing.

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As a photographer, light is vital in my life.

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But Belinda Wilkinson is going blind.

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It's a terrifying prospect I know about.

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My mother spent her last precious years completely blind and in fear.

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I witnessed her confidence and independence slipping away from her.

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And now I feel the same dread she must have felt, having

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had two emergency operations to prevent my own sight deteriorating.

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1.8 million people in this country suffer from failing sight,

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and that's a huge number.

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But over the next few minutes, I'm going

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to show what you can do to help to turn the tide.

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Like my mother, Belinda is losing her sight due to a condition

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called age-related macular degeneration, or AMD,

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the leading cause of sight loss for the over-60s.

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For years Belinda was a portrait photographer,

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but the symptoms of AMD made it impossible to continue.

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Of course, the expression of the person you are photographing

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is vital to a good photograph.

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With AMD, one of the really bad bits is the fact that you don't

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see faces very clearly.

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It's pretty unpleasant,

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because all your central vision will eventually go.

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One of the versions of the disease Belinda has is called dry AMD,

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for which there is no cure.

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I notice a deterioration, which is quite rapid, which is fairly

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frightening, because it is robbing me of my independence, which is

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very important in my life. So I try not to think about the future.

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You know, I'm a realist and I do know it's a one-way ticket.

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AMD is just one of many conditions that can lead to sight loss.

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But I hope that in the future,

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people like Belinda or my mum won't have to worry about going blind.

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But that'll only happen

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if we can understand the root causes of this all-too-common affliction.

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Thankfully, there is a charity

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that's turning this hope into a reality.

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Fight for Sight is funding research in laboratories like

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this one at UCL in London, where scientists are dedicated to finding

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new and more effective treatments for the causes of sight loss.

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Professor Steve Moss

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is one of the world's leading researchers into AMD.

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He's spent his career

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trying to understand the causes of the disease.

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This is a really exciting time to be doing research in this area

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because we now really have the prospect of understanding

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what's happening at the cellular level.

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What we're trying to prevent is the attack

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from our own proteins in our own system

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that's taking place in the retina on the cells at the back of the eye.

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Now they know the cause of AMD,

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it's vital that research can move to the next stage,

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to discover the drugs that could cure someone like Belinda.

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But research costs an awful lot of money.

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Over the years here at UCL, we have received

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millions of pounds of funding from Fight for Sight.

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And without Fight for Sight's input, research into AMD

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and other forms of eye disease would suffer enormously in the UK.

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Fight for Sight is the main UK charity dedicated to

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raising funds for pioneering medical sight-loss research.

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And with around 100 people across the UK starting to lose

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their sight every day, there's never been a better time for you to help.

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Eye disease and sight loss can affect any of us

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at any stage of life.

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One person who knows this better than most is 14-year-old Tommy.

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He has a hereditary eye disease called choroideremia,

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which leads inevitably to complete blindness,

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and for which currently there is no cure.

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For Tommy's mum Emma,

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blindness is a shadow that has hung over the family for generations.

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My grandad was blind -

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he had choroideremia.

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There was parts of being a grandad

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when you can't see your grandchildren or be able to

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play with them in the park. You know, it was quite sad.

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When he was four, Tommy was diagnosed.

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I felt a real sense of grief for Tommy,

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that his life would be different.

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Knowing my grandad, I didn't want that life for Tommy.

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We didn't really know what to do or... Sorry...

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Um...you know...

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We were just sort of lost for a bit.

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Choroideremia only affects boys.

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Tommy has begun to lose his peripheral vision

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and over time, the disease will close in on the central

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area of his retina, eventually destroying it.

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My eyesight will kind of degenerate and kind of get worse

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as I get older and eventually I'll go blind.

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It became quite apparent that at the moment

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there was nothing that could be done, there was no treatment.

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That was really, you know, really tough for us.

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But Tommy and his family weren't about to give up.

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Emma got in touch with Fight for Sight, who inspired them

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to raise a massive amount of money to fund a research project

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to find a cure for choroideremia.

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Medical research is the only thing that will change Tommy's life

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and give him the life that we all want him to have.

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The money Emma raised for Fight for Sight helped take the research

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out of the lab and on to patients,

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in a clinical trial being run by Professor Robert MacLaren.

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We know in choroideremia that there is a vital gene that is part of

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the DNA which is missing and we have been able to harness the power of

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the virus to infect cells to put the missing gene back into the cells.

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Now, the results in the lab have been very promising and very exciting

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and that's enabled us now to move us on to a clinical trial.

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The first stage of the trial on patients

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is producing startling results.

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And if the next stage is successful too,

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then doctors will be able to offer a cure to Tommy in a few years,

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saving him and many other children from going blind.

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And the gene therapy technique the team have perfected

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could revolutionise the treatment of other diseases, too.

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This is a very exciting time indeed -

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there are many other genetic diseases that could be treated

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through very similar clinical trials, and I think the only limiting factor

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at the moment is the amount

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of funding we can raise to get them started.

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Each vital stage of research costs a lot of money.

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But for families living with inherited sight-loss conditions,

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medical breakthroughs offer the only real hope.

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And that's why I'm appealing for your help,

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on behalf of Fight for Sight.

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You can help people when they have a problem, but it doesn't cure them.

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Research is the only way forward.

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'Fight for Sight are just an amazing charity and without them

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'medical research would not be where it is today.

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'Tommy's prospects now for the future are looking much, much brighter.'

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For it actually to come to the day when Tommy's having it done,

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it will be the best day ever. I just can't wait.

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Fight for Sight is currently funding over 100 cutting-edge

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research projects for age-related and hereditary eye conditions

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that could save the vision of people like Tommy and Belinda.

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And you can help make sure that they succeed.

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So please dig deep and donate now.

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Please go to the website...

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If you haven't got internet access,

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please call...

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If you can't get through

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the first time, please keep trying.

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Telephone calls are free

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from most landlines.

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Some networks and mobile operators

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will charge for these calls.

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Texts cost £10 plus your standard

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network message charge,

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and the whole £10

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goes to Fight for Sight.

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Full terms and conditions

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can be found at bbc.co.uk/lifeline

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Or if you'd like to post a donation,

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please make your cheque payable

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to Fight for Sight and send it to

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Freepost BBC Lifeline Appeal,

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writing "Fight for Sight"

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on the back of the envelope.

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And if you want the charity

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to claim Gift Aid on your donation,

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please include an e-mail

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or postal address so that they can

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send you a Gift Aid form.

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Thank you.

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TV presenter Judy Finnigan makes an appeal on behalf of Fight for Sight, a charity that raises funds to support vital medical research into a wide range of eye conditions. It is a subject close to Judy's heart, as she supported her mother when she became blind, and she recently faced two emergency operations to prevent her own sight failing.

The film features Emma and her son Tommy, who has choroideremia, an inherited eye condition that will leave him blind in a few years' time. Desperate for a cure, Emma turned to Fight for Sight, who inspired her to raise money to fund a research programme. Now, thanks to that effort, doctors believe they are on the brink of being able to prevent the condition. At last there is the potential to save thousands from going blind, and Fight for Sight needs more support to help them continue their research.