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I've always had an eye for beauty.
When you look through a lens you see things rather more clearly.
It's a wonderful feeling.
You do feel part of what you are seeing.
As a photographer, light is vital in my life.
But Belinda Wilkinson is going blind.
It's a terrifying prospect I know about.
My mother spent her last precious years completely blind and in fear.
I witnessed her confidence and independence slipping away from her.
And now I feel the same dread she must have felt, having
had two emergency operations to prevent my own sight deteriorating.
1.8 million people in this country suffer from failing sight,
and that's a huge number.
But over the next few minutes, I'm going
to show what you can do to help to turn the tide.
Like my mother, Belinda is losing her sight due to a condition
called age-related macular degeneration, or AMD,
the leading cause of sight loss for the over-60s.
For years Belinda was a portrait photographer,
but the symptoms of AMD made it impossible to continue.
Of course, the expression of the person you are photographing
is vital to a good photograph.
With AMD, one of the really bad bits is the fact that you don't
see faces very clearly.
It's pretty unpleasant,
because all your central vision will eventually go.
One of the versions of the disease Belinda has is called dry AMD,
for which there is no cure.
I notice a deterioration, which is quite rapid, which is fairly
frightening, because it is robbing me of my independence, which is
very important in my life. So I try not to think about the future.
You know, I'm a realist and I do know it's a one-way ticket.
AMD is just one of many conditions that can lead to sight loss.
But I hope that in the future,
people like Belinda or my mum won't have to worry about going blind.
But that'll only happen
if we can understand the root causes of this all-too-common affliction.
Thankfully, there is a charity
that's turning this hope into a reality.
Fight for Sight is funding research in laboratories like
this one at UCL in London, where scientists are dedicated to finding
new and more effective treatments for the causes of sight loss.
Professor Steve Moss
is one of the world's leading researchers into AMD.
He's spent his career
trying to understand the causes of the disease.
This is a really exciting time to be doing research in this area
because we now really have the prospect of understanding
what's happening at the cellular level.
What we're trying to prevent is the attack
from our own proteins in our own system
that's taking place in the retina on the cells at the back of the eye.
Now they know the cause of AMD,
it's vital that research can move to the next stage,
to discover the drugs that could cure someone like Belinda.
But research costs an awful lot of money.
Over the years here at UCL, we have received
millions of pounds of funding from Fight for Sight.
And without Fight for Sight's input, research into AMD
and other forms of eye disease would suffer enormously in the UK.
Fight for Sight is the main UK charity dedicated to
raising funds for pioneering medical sight-loss research.
And with around 100 people across the UK starting to lose
their sight every day, there's never been a better time for you to help.
Eye disease and sight loss can affect any of us
at any stage of life.
One person who knows this better than most is 14-year-old Tommy.
He has a hereditary eye disease called choroideremia,
which leads inevitably to complete blindness,
and for which currently there is no cure.
For Tommy's mum Emma,
blindness is a shadow that has hung over the family for generations.
My grandad was blind -
he had choroideremia.
There was parts of being a grandad
when you can't see your grandchildren or be able to
play with them in the park. You know, it was quite sad.
When he was four, Tommy was diagnosed.
I felt a real sense of grief for Tommy,
that his life would be different.
Knowing my grandad, I didn't want that life for Tommy.
We didn't really know what to do or... Sorry...
We were just sort of lost for a bit.
Choroideremia only affects boys.
Tommy has begun to lose his peripheral vision
and over time, the disease will close in on the central
area of his retina, eventually destroying it.
My eyesight will kind of degenerate and kind of get worse
as I get older and eventually I'll go blind.
It became quite apparent that at the moment
there was nothing that could be done, there was no treatment.
That was really, you know, really tough for us.
But Tommy and his family weren't about to give up.
Emma got in touch with Fight for Sight, who inspired them
to raise a massive amount of money to fund a research project
to find a cure for choroideremia.
Medical research is the only thing that will change Tommy's life
and give him the life that we all want him to have.
The money Emma raised for Fight for Sight helped take the research
out of the lab and on to patients,
in a clinical trial being run by Professor Robert MacLaren.
We know in choroideremia that there is a vital gene that is part of
the DNA which is missing and we have been able to harness the power of
the virus to infect cells to put the missing gene back into the cells.
Now, the results in the lab have been very promising and very exciting
and that's enabled us now to move us on to a clinical trial.
The first stage of the trial on patients
is producing startling results.
And if the next stage is successful too,
then doctors will be able to offer a cure to Tommy in a few years,
saving him and many other children from going blind.
And the gene therapy technique the team have perfected
could revolutionise the treatment of other diseases, too.
This is a very exciting time indeed -
there are many other genetic diseases that could be treated
through very similar clinical trials, and I think the only limiting factor
at the moment is the amount
of funding we can raise to get them started.
Each vital stage of research costs a lot of money.
But for families living with inherited sight-loss conditions,
medical breakthroughs offer the only real hope.
And that's why I'm appealing for your help,
on behalf of Fight for Sight.
You can help people when they have a problem, but it doesn't cure them.
Research is the only way forward.
'Fight for Sight are just an amazing charity and without them
'medical research would not be where it is today.
'Tommy's prospects now for the future are looking much, much brighter.'
For it actually to come to the day when Tommy's having it done,
it will be the best day ever. I just can't wait.
Fight for Sight is currently funding over 100 cutting-edge
research projects for age-related and hereditary eye conditions
that could save the vision of people like Tommy and Belinda.
And you can help make sure that they succeed.
So please dig deep and donate now.
Please go to the website...
If you haven't got internet access,
If you can't get through
the first time, please keep trying.
Telephone calls are free
from most landlines.
Some networks and mobile operators
will charge for these calls.
Texts cost £10 plus your standard
network message charge,
and the whole £10
goes to Fight for Sight.
Full terms and conditions
can be found at bbc.co.uk/lifeline
Or if you'd like to post a donation,
please make your cheque payable
to Fight for Sight and send it to
Freepost BBC Lifeline Appeal,
writing "Fight for Sight"
on the back of the envelope.
And if you want the charity
to claim Gift Aid on your donation,
please include an e-mail
or postal address so that they can
send you a Gift Aid form.