A flow cytometry facility for ocular regenerative medicine

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Institute of Ophthalmology


This funding will establish a UCL Institute of Ophthalmology flow cytometry facility to support the Institute's ocular regenerative medicine programme. The Institute is recognised internationally for its remarkably strong track record in delivery of novel biological therapies for eye disease and stem cell therapy in particular (e.g. first-in-man gene therapy, stem cell therapy for ocular surface disease, stem cell therapy for advanced Stargardt's, stem cell therapy for age-related macular degeneration [AMD] on target for 2013). An in-house cytometry facility with state-of-the-art equipment for analysis and sorting of stem and progenitor cells will to help to maintain UCL Institute of Ophthalmology as a world leading world centre for ocular cell transplantation.

Technical Summary

We have a world leading regenerative medicine programme that covers photoreceptor, RPE, Muller cell and corneal limbal cell transplantation. As well as producing paradigm-shifting pre-clinical research (e.g. MacLaren et al., Nature, 2006; Pearson et al, Nature 2012), we have established some of the world's first clinical trials involving limbal stem cells and human ES -derived cells. Currently we have over £16M in funding, including over £6M from MRC/TSB/BBSRC. In order to maintain our world leading cell transplantation programmes, we now require a dedicated flow cytometry facility that would greatly improve our ability to refine cell populations for transplantation. It is essential that these facilities are housed within the Institute to ensure that freshly obtained biological material is rapidly processed.

We are requesting funding for a state-of-the-art FACS sorter (BD Influx 5L manufactured by Beckton Dickinson - cost £413, 540) and a FACS analyser (BD Fortessa5L, manufactured by Beckton Dickinson - cost £216,075). These will allow 6-way sorting and up to 18-colour analysis. We are also requesting £45,000 for laboratory alterations (a partition, changes to benching, air conditioning, electrical supplies and fitting of blackouts) in order to house the equipment.

We have secured over £427,000 from UCL and the Special Trustees of Moorfields Eye Hospital to support this facility. This includes salary support for a Grade 8 position for 5 years and £20,000 per annum towards service costs over the same period. UCL will contribute £150,000 and The Special Trustees will contribute £277,000. Services charges (at a similar rate to other cytometry facilities) will allow us to build a fund to support the running costs of the service beyond the 5 years provided by UCL and Special Trustees. Extrapolating from our current usage of external facilities we conservatively anticipate being able to recover at at least £50,000 of running costs per year.

Planned Impact

The areas of translational research that would be supported by this facility have huge relevance to the health of patients and the public. The treatments that might emerge in the future from this research could improve the lives of many millions of patients in the UK and abroad. Three main areas of ocular regenerative medicine will be supported.

AMD is the single most common cause of blindness in the UK and accounts for blind or partial sight registration in almost 300,000 people - more than all other eye diseases combined. Worldwide about 20 to 25 million people are affected and the prevalence is expected to rise threefold over the next 25 years with increased global life expectancy. If our stem cell research are successful, this could significantly improve treatment outcomes for neovascular (wet) AMD and new treatments for dry macular degeneration, which is currently untreatable, and the burden of which is anticipated to become substantial within the next 10 years.

In glaucoma,there is no current treatment for significant neuropathy and stem cell therapy could result in life changing improvements in vision for end stage glaucoma patients. Glaucoma affects 70 million people of whom 7 million are blind.

Internationally, corneal opacity due to trachoma is the second most common cause of blindness. Although
ocular surface disorders are not a common cause of blindness in developed countries, these disorders account for more than half of emergency and primary care setting patient attendances. Of new attendances at Moorfields A&E Department in 2005, 58% were due to cornea and external eye disorders. Although rarer than other diseases, disorders of the cornea that could be treated by stem cell therapies currently cause enormous morbidity worldwide and improved treatments could impact on many millions of people.


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Gardner PJ (2017) Augmenting Endogenous Levels of Retinal Annexin A1 Suppresses Uveitis in Mice. in Translational vision science & technology

Description Equipment grant (FACS Cabinet)
Amount £17,560 (GBP)
Funding ID E17000A 
Organisation Moorfields Eye Charity 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 01/2018
Description Moorfields Eye Hospital Special Trustees Award
Amount £277,386 (GBP)
Organisation Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 
Department The Special Trustees of Moorfields Eye Hospital General Fund
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2014 
End 03/2019
Description Moorfields Eye Hospital Special Trustees Award
Amount £43,000 (GBP)
Organisation Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust 
Department The Special Trustees of Moorfields Eye Hospital General Fund
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2015 
End 09/2016
Description UCL's Wellcome Trust Institutional Strategic Support Fund
Amount £100,000 (GBP)
Organisation Wellcome Trust 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2013 
End 10/2014