Loss of vision has a profound impact on quality of life, and is associated with substantial direct costs for medical treatment, assistive devices and informal care, as well as indirect costs related to productivity loss, change in employment and loss of income. Importantly, the disability is associated with emotional distress and risk of depression due to its profound impact on daily life, with loss of independency and an increased risk of hazards like falling and injury. Vision loss and blindness affect over 3% of the population in Europe and this number is increasing due to an aging population and the rise in diabetes.
Major causes of visual impairment or blindness in Europe are age-related macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. Multiple parts and tissues of the eye, including the lens, the cornea, the optic nerve, the outer retina and the inner retina, as well as various risk factors, such as genetics, environmental factors, nutritional, metabolic and immunological factors, are involved in the various disease mechanisms. Given this multifactorial nature of eye disease, there is a strong need for experimental models to understand the mechanism of disease, as well as for drug discovery and development.