Lady Leshurr: How tooth brushing made a YouTube star

Ten years ago, Lady Leshurr would’ve been considered a rapper, pure and simple.

But today, the 29-year-old’s hugely successful online videos make her difficult to categorise.

“I never thought I’d be classed as a YouTuber, but I guess I am technically,” she tells BBC News. “YouTube has done everything for my career.”

Leshurr (whose stage name is a play on her real name, Malesha O’Garro, and nothing to do with being a lady of leisure) is gearing up for her debut album this year after releasing a string of viral videos.

Just a few years ago, the Birmingham-born star was an underground rapper – you’d have been more likely to catch her playing small gigs or releasing mixtapes than uploading YouTube clips.

But then, she launched Queen’s Speech – a series of videos, inspired by battle rap, each filmed in one continuous take.

“I never expected Queen’s Speech to do what it did,” Leshurr says.

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“I took a year out before I started those. I used to just fling out songs here and there, but I took a break, and started to get to know myself.

“Because, even though I had been doing music for ages, I didn’t feel like I had a proper trademark sound.

“So I was watching a lot of people that came out in 2015, and I just realised what’s missing from the music industry is fun. A sense of humour, like old-school Eminem.”

Each of the Queen’s Speech videos took a different theme, and sees her rapping in locations as diverse as the Woolwich tunnel, a residential street in Los Angeles, an underground car park – or while riding a camel on a dual carriageway.

(As you do.)

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But the lyrics of the songs attracted just as much attention as the videos she filmed for them. Their playful, comedic element rapidly became a crucial part of her identity.

“People associate grime with violence and aggression, and I wanted to be the person to change that,” she says.

“The lyrics that I use – I don’t swear, I don’t talk about drugs and violence.”

Instead, garlic bread, Tetley’s tea, Postman Pat, cheesy Wotsits, Brexit, Snapchat, beans on toast and The Jeremy Kyle Show are among the things she has referenced in her songs.

Her lyrics blend such pop culture references with politically-conscientious rhymes while also reading like an etiquette bible for the social media age.

“I can’t stand girls who take their heels off when they’re in a rave / I’ll step on your big toe, just to remind you how to behave,” she spits on Queen’s Speech 3.

“What you Snapchatting in the club for? Just dance man,” she advises on Queen’s Speech 4.

“And there is just one thing, that I never understood / Girls are learning to twerk, but don’t know how to cook,” she raps on Queen’s Speech 6

However, lyrics such as these – and others where she refers to girls who go to sleep with their make-up on or whose “lips look like crispy bacon” – have earned her criticism from some quarters, who have accused her of being anti-feminist.

But Leshurr says her words are intended to be read as light-hearted and funny rather than aggressive.

“Some people just think I’m trying to slander women and put girls down. And it’s not that – it’s just the fact of me loving battle rap,” she says – referring to the live hip-hop clashes where two MCs take turns to diss their opponent.

“It’s never that I’m trying to put someone down. It’s always like ‘Oh my friend always walks around in the club with no shoes on, that’s funny’, it’s not a thing where I’m trying to go directly at someone.

“I say certain things in Queen’s Speech because I know it’s going to be relatable to the common man.”

It was the fourth instalment of QS – complete with the catchy “brush your teeth” chorus – that took her to the next level.

It racked up more than 100 million views across all platforms, including 40 million alone from DeLorean, a prominent US Facebook account which shared it.

Leshurr credits DeLorean with giving her the exposure that eventually led to Samsung using the song in one of their commercials.

She had initially planned the Queen’s Speech series to be a quartet of videos, but after the fourth instalment went viral in such a big way she decided to continue them – and they got considerably more ambitious.

“We went to Woolwich tunnel pretty late one night because we thought people wouldn’t be going through, but there were,” she says of the filming of Queen’s Speech 6.

“So that took us about four hours to shoot because we wanted to do it without anybody else there.

“And a lot of Americans thought that tunnel was CGI, because they didn’t believe we’ve got long tunnels like that in the UK,” she laughs.

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Another key Lady Leshurr trait is her distinctive accent, which shines through on every song.

She was born in Birmingham, but her parents are originally from St Kitts.

“When I was really young, I was rapping in an American accent, I didn’t really embrace my own accent back then,” she says.

“But when I heard Ms Dynamite, I just thought, I respect what she’s doing, I wanna be like that – she’s using her accent, I should be able to use mine.

“And now I love it, I’m happy that I’m from Birmingham, and it did work to my advantage eventually.”

But perhaps the most striking thing about speaking to Leshurr is how removed she is in person from the loud, brash, flamboyant personality you see in her videos.

“I’m basically the opposite person of who I am on stage,” she says. “I keep to myself, barely go out.”

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She’s hinted at her introverted nature in songs before.

On her Unleshed 2 freestyle, she rapped: “Nowadays I’m low, feeling sad… my anxiety is killing me, making my mind go mad. I’m scared to go to the shop because people know who I am… so I lock myself away.”

A year on from its release, she says little has changed.

“I’m shy, I’m nervous, I don’t look in people’s eyes when I’m talking to them,” she explains.

“I decided to put that song out because it’s how I felt, and it’s powerful. If I’m going through something, I’ll write sad music… I have to write it just to turn the page.”

“But when I’m doing a Queen’s Speech I just come out of myself, and I’m down to try everything.”

As she works towards the release of her first full-length studio album, Leshurr is now winding down the Queen’s Speech project (although she does say she’ll continue to do them “now and again”).

In the meantime, she’s releasing freestyles and stand-alone videos (the most recent of which have included Black Panther, filmed on London’s DLR network, and the brilliantly-titled New Freezer) to keep her brand alive and fans happy.

She also recently lent her support to a campaign to encourage responsible drinking, and has a number of live dates lined up – including an appearance at the Reading and Leeds festival this August.

“Now I think it’s going to be more just proper music,” she says, adding that her first full-length album should hopefully be released this year.

“A lot of people think I can’t make songs, they just think I’m a comedian rapper, but I’m still delivering punch lines, content, flow and technique so it’s a bit frustrating, but I definitely want to show the grown-up side now.”


Follow us on Facebook, on Twitter @BBCNewsEnts, or on Instagram at bbcnewsents. If you have a story suggestion email entertainment.news@bbc.co.uk.

Entire contents of Heathrow Terminal 1 to be sold off

Baggage carousels and check-in desks are going under the hammer as the entire contents of Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 1 is sold.

Security scanners from the terminal, which was closed down in 2015, are also being auctioned off.

Other things up for grabs include 15 escalators, 1950s artwork and more than 2,000 security cameras.

Auction firm CA Global Partners hopes to fetch a six-figure sum when the items are sold on April 21.

Daniel Gray, from CA Global Partners, said “a sale comprising the entire contents and infrastructure of an entire major airport terminal is unprecedented”.

He said art by Stefan Knapp and “iconic” signage would attract collectors, while the various chairs on offer might appeal to bars and nightclubs.

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Hither Green ‘burglary death’ suspect, 78, bailed

A 78-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder after a suspected burglar was stabbed to death has been bailed.

The man, named locally as Richard Osborn-Brooks, found two intruders in South Park Crescent, Hither Green, south-east London, early on Wednesday.

A man armed with a screwdriver forced the homeowner into his kitchen where there was a struggle and the suspect was stabbed, the Met said.

The suspected burglar who died has been named as Henry Vincent, 37, from Kent.

Mr Vincent was named and pictured by Kent Police in January as part of an investigation into a distraction burglary.

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    Jewellery and valuables were stolen from a man in his 70s, police said at the time.

    Mr Osborn-Brooks has been bailed until May pending further inquiries.

    Police said they were called to the property over reports of a burglary when they found Mr Vincent collapsed in nearby Further Green Road with a stab wound to the upper body.

    A witness said an accomplice dragged Mr Vincent toward a van before leaving him for dead.

    A second suspect fled the scene and is still being hunted by police.

    Det Ch Insp Simon Harding appealed for anyone with information regarding the second suspect – who is believed to be a white male and fled the scene in a white van – to come forward.

    “He may have told someone what happened at the address,” he added.

    On Thursday, a team used machinery to move a parked car so that officers could access a drain on the street.

    Investigators lifted off the cover and sifted through buckets of liquid pulled from the drain before putting the green Rover back.

    A woman also left a bunch of flowers at the police cordon on Further Green Road, yards from where Mr Vincent fell.

    Flowers addressed to Mr Osborn-Brooks’s home were delivered to the police cordon on South Park Crescent by a courier.

    One man who lives on the street said there had been a recent spate of burglaries in the area and his home had been broken into in recent months.

    Adam Lake, another local resident, said he “wasn’t surprised” to hear about the burglary.

    “I feel terrible for the man that was burgled. He doesn’t deserve to be punished for defending himself,” he said.

    A neighbour of Mr Osborn-Brooks, who asked not to be named, supported his right to defend the neighbourhood.

    She said: “[I’ve heard] he’s a carer – this is a pensioner that has worked all his life who wants to live and die quietly.”

Sophie Lionnet death: Boyzone founder ‘never heard’ of French nanny

A former member of Boyzone embroiled in the murder case of his ex-girlfriend’s French nanny told jurors he “never, ever” had any contact with the victim.

Mark Walton was allegedly a focal point of his former partner’s campaign of torture against Sophie Lionnet.

Sabrina Kouider, 35, and Ouissem Medouni, 40, beat the 21-year-old au pair into a confession that she was in league with Mr Walton to spy on the family, the Old Bailey heard.

They deny killing her hours later.

Ms Lionnet’s body was thrown on to a bonfire in their garden in Southfields, south-west London, the court heard.

Giving evidence, Mr Walton, who is based in Los Angeles, told jurors his ex-partner, Ms Kouider, would “flip” during their two-year turbulent relationship.

He would support the fashion designer with thousands of pounds every month, even paying her rent long after she left him, he told the court.

On their relationship, he said: “It was turbulent, probably the most turbulent relationship I had ever been in.

“She would go from a softly spoken French accent, then she would flip, get very angry, very loud and just not care where we were.

“She would just go crazy over something trivial.”

The first he heard about Miss Lionnet was on 21 September last year when he was contacted by murder detectives, he said.

Referring to accusations levelled at him by Ms Kouider, prosecutor Richard Horwell QC said: “Have you ever been party to a plot to drug the people in the Wimbledon flat and, whilst unconscious, sexually abuse the occupants?”

Mr Walton said: “Absolutely not.”

He said the last time he was in the UK was when he went to a meeting in October 2015 and he told jurors he had “never, ever” heard of Ms Lionnet or ever been in contact with her.

Mr Walton told jurors he “created” Boyzone in 1993 and was in the band for about a year before going on to be involved in Fifth Avenue.


Who is Mark Walton?

1993: Auditions take place for a new Irish boyband. Mark Walton, along with Keith Duffy, Ronan Keating, Shane Lynch and Richie Rock form Boyzone and are later managed by Louis Walsh

1994: Mark Walton and Richie Rock leave the band

2000s: After Boyzone, Mr Walton sets up a band called Fifth Avenue, and also gets involved with the management of Irish girlband B*Witched

2015: Mr Walton appears as a judge on Vietnam’s Pop Idol

2017: Mr Walton named during the murder case of his ex-girlfriend’s French nanny


By the time he met Ms Kouider in 2011 he was doing well financially in the music business, he said.

Mr Walton said he paid for Ms Kouider’s nannies but she would fire them over accusations of stealing and of being interested in him, the court heard.

“I actually challenged Sabrina on this. I did not believe her,” he told the court.

Ms Kouider and Mr Medouni have admitted perverting the course of justice but deny murder.

The trial continues.

‘Before this happened I thought I was immune’

Paramedics are only ever a 999 call away from an experience that could change their lives forever. While some might have the good fortune never to have to respond to an emergency like the Grenfell Tower fire or the Manchester Arena bombing, others will have to live with the consequent mental scarring.

According to the mental health charity Mind, ambulance workers are twice as likely to suffer mental health problems than the general public – but they are also much less likely to reach out for support.

So who is there to help the people who help us at our times of greatest need?

‘I thought it would never affect me’

Father-of-four Dan Farnworth says a 999 call he attended in 2015 completely changed his life.

He had been with North West Ambulance Service since 2004 as an emergency medical technician, but a callout to the scene of a murder of a child hit him hard.

“Before this happened, I thought I was immune to mental health issues – it would never affect me,” the 32-year-old said.

At first he just felt low, but after about 24 hours he realised he was still struggling.

“I couldn’t shake the image of the child.”

Dan found it changed the way he behaved, both at work and with his family, and he suffered nightmares.

He eventually reached out to friend and fellow paramedic Rich Morton – something he says saved his life because it spurred him to get help.

Dan was signed off work for five months with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

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The friends eventually went on to set up their own charity called Our Blue Light, of which Dan says he is “immensely proud”.

They work to open up discussions about mental health in the emergency services and to make sure people know what to do when a colleague is in mental health crisis.

“It isn’t something you’re taught; we may learn CPR but not what to do when it is a mental health problem – and it is so important.”

He has also worked with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry as part of their Heads Together campaign.

Dan has recently been awarded a Churchill Fellowship, which will fund a trip to the United States and Canada to research a report for Parliament about how their emergency services tackle the issue of mental health.

He said: “I feel quite good at the moment, I have taken a lot of comfort from being able to help other people.

“I’ve also built up my own resilience and have been able to accept that it isn’t always going to be OK. I’m more self-aware, which is a great thing.”

‘We are not superhuman’

“There is this picture I’ve seen of Superman and he’s in the supermarket and he is crying his eyes out,” said 52-year-old Esmail Rifai, a veteran of 27 years with North West Ambulance Service.

“That is how I felt at the time. People see us as superheroes, that we can do anything, but in reality we can go home and, quite often, can have a massive breakdown.”

Two years ago, he had a mental breakdown and spent time off work from his role as a paramedic to receive one-to-one counselling.

He said: “I remember all the horrible jobs to this day. Not just visually; the smell, the taste in my mouth. I think [this is] something everyone from the emergency services will find.

“For me, my breakdown was a combination of lots of different things: the pressures of work, that knock-on effect on your personal life – you can’t help but take things home.”

But shortly after Esmail came back to work, a colleague killed himself. He said he felt “personally at fault”.

“I could have spoken to him, could have helped him. I was upset that he didn’t open up to anybody, or felt he could not open up to anybody.

“I thought, ‘I need to think, I need to do something, to avoid them getting to that stage in life where they feel they have nothing to live for’. It helped me to focus on something.”

Esmail now works for the ambulance service as a clinical safety practitioner and with the charity Mind as one of its Blue Light Champions, promoting its project.

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    He said: “Being involved has also given me some solace. Knowing that I’m helping others in itself makes me feel good, gives me a sense of achievement.

    “There is no shame or stigma attached to experiencing mental health problems – it’s just the same as breaking a bone, except no-one can see that you are suffering.

    “We are not superhuman and we are just as prone to illness as anyone else, if not more.”

    ‘Some calls always remain with you’

    As Jules Lockett points out, it’s not just paramedics who can experience extreme pressure.

    Though she doesn’t work on the front line like some of her colleagues, there is extreme pressure on her in her role at the London Ambulance Service, where she has been employed for 18 years.

    “I think there is always a call, or a handful of calls in your career which always remain with you,” said the 48-year-old, who started out as a call-handler in the emergency control room.

    “You get a response when you can relate it to your nan, your aunty or your uncle. Some of the calls are really distressing: people hanging, or in cardiac arrest. Those calls still stay with me.

    “But they also really make you feel that’s what you are there to do; it isn’t just about giving instructions.”

    The service’s current head of training says she has seen greater pressures on its workers, with the average number of calls reaching 5,000 in a 24-hour period.

    “It is sometimes quite difficult to try and convey the sentiment you want to someone when you are on the phone. You want to put your arm around them and give them a hug and make them better.”

    For Jules, her mental health problems weren’t directly related to her work, but she said it was the support of her ambulance “family” that helped her through it.

    She underwent surgery on her back before joining the service, which brought on a period of depression, and, when she found she needed more surgery about five years ago, she talked it through with her workmates.

    “I think it is important to ask people for support, and sometimes your colleagues will be critical to help get you through the tough times.”

    She said London Ambulance Service has promoted discussion about mental health and provides support in the workplace.

    It offers resilience training, counselling services, a peer support network and has recently set up two quiet zones near the control rooms in Waterloo and Bow, where staff can go when they need time to reflect.

    ‘The nightmares would be horrendous’

    Peter Morgan says his problems came years after he stopped working in the ambulance service.

    He was a paramedic for 10 years, covering Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, before leaving the service in 2003.

    But when a friend was killed in a road traffic accident about five years later, his mental health went into decline.

    “It would be flashbacks, the nightmares would be horrendous, I would wake up pool of sweat – it was awful,” said Peter, 51, who would go on to be diagnosed with PTSD.

    “The nightmares would start off being memories from the past, jobs I’d been to, then they started to change, almost like something from a horrendous fiction-horror where I would be surrounded by body parts.

    “Totally away from reality, but for me it was extremely real.”

    Peter’s wife Tina was instrumental in realising he needed to get help and approached the Ambulance Staff Charity, which is based in Coventry, not far from their home in Rugby.

    He started therapy and this helped him understand the triggers for his episodes, such as the sound of helicopters or sirens.

    “With the ambulance service, you’ve got anything from a cot death to a road traffic accident; you spend your day going from picking little old Mrs Jones off the floor because she fell over to five people dead in a car crash.

    “It is going from one extreme to another within the space of, like, five hours. For some, it gets to a point where you can’t take it.

    “Nowadays, the emergency services understand what PTSD is. I don’t think anyone did before, and that was a problem.

    “Now there is more awareness and a realisation that every job is loading on a little bit more.”

    Addressing mental health problems within the emergency services is not simply a matter of offering support to those in need, according to Mind’s Blue Light Programme manager Faye McGuinness.

    Part of its work also involves training people to be more aware of the issues colleagues might face.

    “People think it is all trauma-related, but what people have what told us is that organisational factors are impacting more negatively: things like long working hours, shift patterns and the stigma surrounding mental health.

    “We have most definitely have seen a change – we have been quite overwhelmed with the reaction within a group we thought would be difficult to reach.

    “There is definitely still work to do – you don’t see things change overnight – but we are starting to see organisations change the way they view mental health wellbeing.

    “It is a long-term commitment.”

Macular degeneration: ‘I’ve been given my sight back’

Doctors have taken a major step towards curing the most common form of blindness in the UK – age-related macular degeneration.

Douglas Waters, 86, could not see out of his right eye, but “I can now read the newspaper” with it, he says.

He was one of two patients given pioneering stem cell therapy at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

Cells from a human embryo were grown into a patch that was delicately inserted into the back of the eye.

‘Couldn’t see anything’

Douglas, who is from London, developed severe age-related macular degeneration in his right eye three years ago.

The macula is the part of the eye that allows you to see straight ahead – whether to recognise faces, watch TV or read a book.

He says: “In the months before the operation my sight was really poor and I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye.

“It’s brilliant what the team have done and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back.”

The macula is made up of rods and cones that sense light and behind those are a layer of nourishing cells called the retinal pigment epithelium.

When this support layer fails, it causes macular degeneration and blindness.

Doctors have devised a way of building a new retinal pigment epithelium and surgically implanting it into the eye.

The technique, published in Nature Biotechnology, starts with embryonic stem cells. These are a special type of cell that can become any other in the human body.

They are converted into the type of cell that makes up the retinal pigment epithelium and embedded into a scaffold to hold them in place.

The living patch is only one layer of cells thick – about 40 microns – and 6mm long and 4mm wide.

It is then placed underneath the rods and cones in the back of the eye. The operation takes up to two hours.

‘Incredibly exciting’

Prof Lyndon da Cruz, consultant retinal surgeon at Moorfields, told the BBC: “We’ve restored vision where there was none.

“It’s incredibly exciting. As you get older, parts of you stop working and for the first time we’ve been able to take a cell and make it into a specific part of the eye that’s failing and put it back in the eye and get vision back.”

However, he does not call this a “cure” as completely normal vision is not restored.

Only one diseased eye was operated on in each patient.

So far the patients, the other is a woman in her early sixties, have maintained improved vision in the treated eye for a year.

They went from not being able to read with their affected eye at all, to reading 60 to 80 words per minute.

Eight more patients will take part in this clinical trial.

Doctors need to be sure it is safe. One concern is the transplanted cells could become cancerous, although there have been no such signs so far.

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    Prof Pete Coffey, from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said: “This study represents real progress in regenerative medicine.

    “We hope this will lead to an affordable ‘off-the-shelf’ therapy that could be made available to NHS patients within the next five years.”

    More than 600,000 people have age-related macular degeneration in the UK. It’s the leading cause of blindness and the third globally.

    Both patients in the trial had “wet” age-related macular degeneration.

    This form of the disease is caused by abnormal blood vessels growing through the retinal pigment epithelium and damaging the macula.

    Dry age-related macular degeneration is more common and caused by the retinal pigment epithelium breaking down.

    It is hoped the patch will be able to treat both forms of the disease.

    Dr Carmel Toomes, from Leeds Institutes of Molecular Medicine, said: “What’s exciting about this study is that the patients recorded an increase in vision.

    “To see an improvement is a good sign that this therapy may help patients in the future, although further studies are needed before real conclusions can be drawn.”

    Follow James on Twitter.

    View comments

Macular degeneration: ‘I’ve been given my sight back’

Doctors have taken a major step towards curing the most common form of blindness in the UK – age-related macular degeneration.

Douglas Waters, 86, could not see out of his right eye, but “I can now read the newspaper” with it, he says.

He was one of two patients given pioneering stem cell therapy at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

Cells from a human embryo were grown into a patch that was delicately inserted into the back of the eye.

‘Couldn’t see anything’

Douglas, who is from London, developed severe age-related macular degeneration in his right eye three years ago.

The macula is the part of the eye that allows you to see straight ahead – whether to recognise faces, watch TV or read a book.

He says: “In the months before the operation my sight was really poor and I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye.

“It’s brilliant what the team have done and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back.”

The macula is made up of rods and cones that sense light and behind those are a layer of nourishing cells called the retinal pigment epithelium.

When this support layer fails, it causes macular degeneration and blindness.

Doctors have devised a way of building a new retinal pigment epithelium and surgically implanting it into the eye.

The technique, published in Nature Biotechnology, starts with embryonic stem cells. These are a special type of cell that can become any other in the human body.

They are converted into the type of cell that makes up the retinal pigment epithelium and embedded into a scaffold to hold them in place.

The living patch is only one layer of cells thick – about 40 microns – and 6mm long and 4mm wide.

It is then placed underneath the rods and cones in the back of the eye. The operation takes up to two hours.

‘Incredibly exciting’

Prof Lyndon da Cruz, consultant retinal surgeon at Moorfields, told the BBC: “We’ve restored vision where there was none.

“It’s incredibly exciting. As you get older, parts of you stop working and for the first time we’ve been able to take a cell and make it into a specific part of the eye that’s failing and put it back in the eye and get vision back.”

However, he does not call this a “cure” as completely normal vision is not restored.

Only one diseased eye was operated on in each patient.

So far the patients, the other is a woman in her early sixties, have maintained improved vision in the treated eye for a year.

They went from not being able to read with their affected eye at all, to reading 60 to 80 words per minute.

Eight more patients will take part in this clinical trial.

Doctors need to be sure it is safe. One concern is the transplanted cells could become cancerous, although there have been no such signs so far.

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    Prof Pete Coffey, from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said: “This study represents real progress in regenerative medicine.

    “We hope this will lead to an affordable ‘off-the-shelf’ therapy that could be made available to NHS patients within the next five years.”

    More than 600,000 people have age-related macular degeneration in the UK. It’s the leading cause of blindness and the third globally.

    Both patients in the trial had “wet” age-related macular degeneration.

    This form of the disease is caused by abnormal blood vessels growing through the retinal pigment epithelium and damaging the macula.

    Dry age-related macular degeneration is more common and caused by the retinal pigment epithelium breaking down.

    It is hoped the patch will be able to treat both forms of the disease.

    Dr Carmel Toomes, from Leeds Institutes of Molecular Medicine, said: “What’s exciting about this study is that the patients recorded an increase in vision.

    “To see an improvement is a good sign that this therapy may help patients in the future, although further studies are needed before real conclusions can be drawn.”

    Follow James on Twitter.

    View comments