Eye breakthrough thanks to couple; RESEARCH: pounds 1.2million donation of 10 years ago brings major result.
A DONATION of pounds 1.2million for medical research given by a Warwickshire couple has led to a breakthrough in "growing" eyes from stem cells.
The money was given 10 years ago by retired Leamington couple Ted and Myrtle Pridgeon to Warwick University in Coventry.
It helped pay two professors at the university to find out more about the body chemicals which affected eye development.
Now their investment has paid off with the announcement that researchers have uncovered a crucial signal that switches on eye development.
This discovery opens up an avenue of research that could eventually lead to an "eye in a dish".
Professors Nicholas Dale and Elizabeth Jones used frogs and tadpoles for the experiments.
They discovered that introducing certain ectoenzymes to cells would lead to eyes growing.
They produced tadpoles with eyes in their sides, abdomens and tails by judicious use of the right ectoenzymes.
Ectoenzymes are a kind of signalling and energy carrying molecule found in living things.
A Warwick University spokesman said: "This new understanding of how eye development is triggered will greatly assist researchers exploring stem cells connected to eye development and opens up an avenue of research that could, in just a few decades, lead to the ability to produce an eye in a dish."
The cash donated by the Pridgeons paid for Prof Dale's post to be created.
Money from charity The Wellcome Trust was also used in the research.
Mr Pridgeon is a retired cattle breeder from Lincolnshire.
His wife Dr Pridgeon, also retired, worked as a specialist in community health in South Warwickshire.
The couple declined to comment on the breakthrough.
GENEROUS COUPLE... In December 2006, Dr Myrtle Pridgeon and her husband Ted received from Prof Nicholas Dale (centre) the first ever Warwick Benefactors Medal to mark their generosity to the university.