HC Deb 06 June 1989 vol 154 cc22-3W
Mr. Nicholas Winterton

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science (I) what Government funding is currently available for research into the causes and treatment of retinal conditions;

(2) what information he has concerning current research projects studying the detection and alleviation of retinal conditions.

Mr. Jackson

The Medical Research Council which receives a grant-in-aid from this Department, is the main agency through which the Government fund medical research in the United Kingdom. The council determines its own priorities for the support of research, with advice from its expert boards and committees. In 1987–88, the last year for which figures are available, the MRC spent £134,000 on research relevant to retinal conditions.

I understand from the MRC that one of the major current interests in research on retinal conditions, and particularly in connection with retinitis pigmentosa, relates to the genetic basis of such diseases. This is the focus of work generally at the MRC human genetics unit which is located at the western general hospital, Edinburgh. Specifically, the unit is undertaking the following studies concerning retinitis pigmentosa:

  1. i. DNA sequence markers in single gene disorders;
  2. ii. Mapping the x-linked retinitis pigmentosa gene with a view to the development of clinically useful probes.

Some support for research on retinal conditions may also be provided by this Department through UFC block grants to universities and medical schools.

Mr. Amess

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science (1) whether any public funded current or proposed research project into genetic handicap involves the use of the human embryo; and if he will make a statement;

(2) whether the Medical Research Council is involved in any research project into genetic handicap which necessitates the use of the human embryo; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jackson

I understand that the Medical Research Council is involved in research at the Hammersmith hospital on the pre-implantation diagnosis of genetic disease; and at Edinburgh and Oxford, on the development of techniques for the diagnosis of genetic handicap. There is other research concerning pre-implantation diagnosis at Bourn hall, Cambridge, on sexing of human embryos; at Hammersmith hospital, for prevention of genetic diseases; and at Oxford by the Cancer Research Campaign on derivation of cell lines from the human conceptus to investigate the growth regulation of embryonic and tumour cells.