The research is undertaken in the Saving Sight in Grampian (SSIG) Laboratory at the University of Aberdeen, Institute of Medical Sciences, situated at Foresterhill close to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
The Institute of Medical Sciences was set up by the University of Aberdeen in 1995 with the primary purpose of conducting medical research and investigating causes of disease. All aspects of research are carried out within the Institute where the work of numerous research laboratories is directed towards advancing medical treatments. Active collaborations between Departments in the Institute help to link together research projects between the SSIG laboratory and other groups such as Cell and Molecular Biology.
The SSIG Laboratory is embedded in the Immunology and Infection Theme and is purpose designed. Thus, research activity covers not only eye research but many other diseases. Researchers from many countries continue to train in this laboratory and come from as far afield as China, Japan, Brazil, and several European countries as well as elsewhere in the UK, returning to set up new units in their homelands. The importance of the Institute of Medical Sciences and the seminal work it produces cannot be over-emphasised.
Currently, the Saving Sight in Grampian (SSIG) Campaign funds a range of research, undertaken by scientists and clinicians in the SSIG laboratory, and is particularly aimed at developing new therapies for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are caused by an out-of-control immune system which, for instance, is initially switched on to clear infections, especially viral infections, but can't be switched off once the virus has gone. Autoimmune diseases can affect any part of the body and include conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and sight-threatening uveitis.
Our research is aimed at understanding how autoimmune disease develops and developing new treatments. At the present time, treatment for autoimmune disease centres around drugs such as steroids and immunosuppressants which have serious, sometimes life- threatening, side effects. These treatments do not cure the disease, but simply dampen the uncontrolled immune response. To tackle this problem, the SSIG laboratory is generating novel "Cell Therapies" which have the potential to reset the immune system and restore it to normal. The special feature of Cell Therapy is that it re-programmes the patient's own cells to "settle down" and return to normal. In this sense, the novelty of Cell Therapy is that is "cures" the patient of their disease, so that they do not have need of immunosuppressant drugs.
The SSIG laboratory's work has been supported through donations, legacies, wills and bequests over many years and continues to rely on this generous source of funding for its life- and sight-saving work.