Matt Hill: conquering ‘Everest’ for Moorfields
30 January 2020
In 2016, Matt decided to support research into aniridia at Moorfields by cycling up and down one hill enough times to summit Mount Everest!
After a close friend’s son was born with aniridia and treated at Richard Desmond Children’s Eye Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital, Matt decided that he wanted to do something to support research into this condition - which currently has no cure.
What is aniridia?
Aniridia is a rare condition where the iris (the coloured part of the eye) is underdeveloped or missing at birth. People with aniridia cannot control the amount of light coming into their eye, which affects their ability to see.
The pupil lets light into the eye, allowing you to see. The iris is responsible for changing the size of the pupil, which controls how much light enters the eye.
In people with aniridia, the iris is missing or not working properly. This means they can’t control the size of their pupils properly, and so cannot control the amount of light that enters their eyes.
This means they often find it difficult to see and to adjust to changing light environments – for example, going outdoors from inside a building.
1 in 75,000
Aniridia is rare, occurring in between 1 in 50,000 and 1 in 100,000 babies worldwide
Aniridia usually affects both eyes, and people with aniridia will often have large pupils, possibly with irregular shape as well. The amount of the iris that is missing varies from person to person, so while some people will experience severe sight loss, others may only experience a mild blurring of their vision.
Most people with aniridia also have a condition called nystagmus, a constant and involuntary movement of the eyes which makes it harder to see clearly.
There are currently no treatments available for aniridia. Many people use sunglasses and sunhats to help with their sensitivity to bright lights, even indoors
Most people with the condition will visit an ophthalmologist regularly throughout their life, as they are also at greater risk of developing other eye conditions such as cataracts or glaucoma.
Making a mountain out of a hill
After considering options, Matt settled on a challenge that is truly remarkable – to cycle up one hill enough times that it equalled the height of one of the world’s tallest peaks, Mount Everest.
And as if it wasn’t hard enough, he decided to do it in just 24 hours!
Matt says that he wanted to do it in recognition of the care his friend’s son received at Moorfields, and to give hope to everyone with this disease – he just needed “the bike and some strong, resilient legs” to complete it!
Matt managed to exceed his target by around 50%, eventually raising an outstanding £4,542 for pioneering research into aniridia.
The money raised will support the Cells for Sight project at Moorfields’ research partner, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.
The ‘Cells for Sight’ programme
With the help of people like Matt, we’re funding the the Cells for Sight project. Led by Professor Julie Daniels, it’s using stem cells to better understand one of the conditions that threatens the precious sight of people with aniridia.
If it succeeds, researchers hope that this will allow them to develop new therapeutic strategies to prevent or delay sight loss caused by the condition.
While the initial findings of the research are very promising, there is still a long way to go, and support such as Matt’s is vital to its continued progress.
Well done, Matt!