Australian researchers developing new blood test to detect AMD

A new blood test is being developed at the Australian National University in Canberra to detect patients at risk of dry age-related macular degeneration and potentially save millions of people worldwide from going blind.

Dry AMD is a common eye disorder that is caused by damage to the macula. It can takes years for signs of dry AMD to be found in the eye and often by the time it is diagnosed the disease is irreversible.

Lead researcher Dr Riccardo Natoli, from The John Curtin School of Medical Research and ANU Medical School, is developing a blood test to detect the disease earlier based on a model he has developed.

“The detection mechanisms we currently have for dry AMD happen too ,” Dr Natoli said.

“Once dry AMD starts there is a threshold tipping point and once a patient gets over that point there is nothing that can be done to save their sight.

“By the diagnosis stage, you look at the back of the eye and you already see that photoreceptors, the light-sensing cells of the eye, are starting to die.”

Researchers used a light model, thought to be the first of its kind, to better understand how the deterioration of the retina’s photoreceptor cells in the macula.

By | December 24th, 2018|Research|

Flexible artificial retina successfully developed and tested

Scientists report they have successfully developed and tested the world’s first ultrathin artificial retina, which they believe could vastly improve on existing implantable visualisation technology for blind people.

The research was presented at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.

The researchers used 2D materials, including graphene and molybdenum disulphide, as well as thin layers of gold, alumina and silicon nitrate to create a flexible, high-density and curved sensor array.

The device, which resembles the surface of a flattened soccer ball or icosahedron, conforms to the size and shape of a natural retina without mechanically disturbing it.

In laboratory and animal studies, photodetectors on the device readily absorbed light and passed it through a soft external circuit board.

The circuit board housed all of the electronics needed to digitally process light, stimulate the retina and acquire signals from the visual cortex.

Based on those studies, the researchers determined that the prototype artificial retina is biocompatible and successfully mimics the structural features of the human eye, and could be an important step in the quest to develop the next generation of soft bio-electronic retinal prostheses.

By | September 7th, 2018|Research|

Artificial intelligence matches experts at detecting eye diseases: researchers

An artificial intelligence system that can recommend the correct referral decision for over 50 eye diseases as accurately as world-leading experts has been developed by researchers at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation TrustDeepMind Health and UCL.

The breakthrough research, published online on 13 August by Nature Medicine, describes how machine-learning technology has been successfully trained on thousands of historic de-personalised eye scans to identify features of eye disease and recommend how patients should be referred for care.

The researchers said they hoped that the technology could one day transform the way professionals carry out eye examinations, allowing them to spot conditions earlier and prioritise patients with the most-serious eye diseases before irreversible damage sets in.
“The number of eye scans we’re performing is growing at a pace much faster than human experts are able to interpret them. There is a risk that this may cause delays in the diagnosis and treatment of sight-threatening diseases, which can be devastating for patients,” Dr Pearse Keane, MD, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and NIHR clinician scientist at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said.

“The artificial-intelligence technology we’re developing is designed to prioritise patients who need to be seen and treated urgently by a doctor or eye-care professional.

“If we can diagnose and treat

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By | August 27th, 2018|Research|

AI potential in medical imaging and diagnostics revealed

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, and collaborators at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, have developed image analysis and machine learning tools to detect AMD.

In a recent article in Nature Medicine, members of the team discuss the potential of such tools to be used clinically and applied to other image-based medical diagnoses as well.

In 2015, the APL’s Dr Philippe Burlina, PhD, a co-principal investigator for the project, and colleagues teamed up with the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute on ways to automate AMD diagnosis.

In published papers in the JAMA, they demonstrated that machine diagnostics using deep learning can match the performance of human ophthalmologists.

The team has also expanded its inquiry to characterise retinal layers as seen on OCT.

By | July 14th, 2018|Research|

US researcher receives $4.8m grant for stem-cell-based retina therapy

Dr Magdalene Seiler, PhD, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, Irvine, has received a $US4.8 million grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to continue developing a stem cell-based therapy for retinitis pigmentosa.

The therapy may also be applicable to macular degeneration.

Dr Seiler said: “Our goal is a treatment based on transplanting sheets of stem-cell derived retina, called retina organoids, to the back of the eye.”

Since 1995, Dr Seiler and her team have pursued promising research into the development and use of retinal sheet transplantation, using a unique patented implantation instrument and procedure that has demonstrated improvement in visual responses in four different retinal degeneration models.

“The aim is to replace damaged photoreceptors with the hope of re-establishing neural circuitry within the eye,” Dr Seiler said.


By | July 14th, 2018|Research|

DIY AMD checks

A team from Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel, and Medical Laser Center in Lübeck, Germany, has developed a potential hand-held OCT device for home-monitoring of patients with retinal disease, including aged macular degeneration.

It’s early days yet, and the developers have had to make some compromises on image quality – the result is off-axis full-field time-domain OCT focused on reducing the scan area to 3 x 3 mm and using a full-field system which illuminates the whole field.

The 3 x 3 images provide good sensitivity and specificity for monitoring sub-retinal and intraretinal fluid volume, and the full-field approach increases visual quality.

The design is simple, needing only a standard light source – rather than swept-source – and a regular, low-cost USB camera.

Though the team is still in the research phase, they have tested their device – alongside spectral-domain (SD)-OCT – in 10 patients with retinal disease (including AMD and retinal vein occlusion), and have shown that it can acquire clinically-useful images.

The team says that even though the image quality is not quite as good as clinical OCT systems, the sub-retinal fluid does demark very well and the need for re-treatment is apparent.

It is planned to continue developing the device and to study its imaging capabilities in more patients by asking clinicians to grade both

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By | July 1st, 2018|Research|

Don’t fly blind when considering stem-cell treatments for eyes: RANZCO and SCA

Concerned about patients accessing stem-cell treatments for eye conditions that have not been subjected to appropriate clinical trials and approvals, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists and Stem Cells Australia, have joined up to launch an informative patient-information leaflet for people considering such treatments.

For a new stem-cell treatment, patients are advised to ensure it is part of an ethically-approved clinical trial.

The patient-information resource is designed to help patients make more-informed decisions about their eye care by encouraging them to ask five important questions about stem cells for eyesight before undergoing any form of stem cell treatment for ocular disease:

  • What are stem cells and how can they help?
  • What are the safety concerns?
  • Is there evidence that stem cell therapies work?
  • Stem cell treatments are still under investigation, so what does that mean for me?
  • How can I make an informed decision about my options?

Locally and internationally stem cell research is at the cutting edge and is attracting media attention. A recent Washington Post article, highlighted the fact that clinics are emerging offering high-risk procedures that are not yet scientifically proven:

RANZCO initiated the position paper identifying a role in guiding the Australian and New Zealand public around discriminating between evidence-based treatments and those that have not yet been

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By | June 24th, 2018|Research|

$150,000 additional funding for action plan on macular disease

The Australian government will provide $150,000 funding for the development of a national action plan to better support patients with macular disease, the leading cause of vision loss among older Australians, it was announced during Macular Degeneration Awareness Week.

The action plan will provide a streamlined approach to the treatment and management of the disease across Australia and will be a roadmap to deliver better outcomes for patients, federal health minister Mr Greg Hunt said when announcing the additional funding.
A Macular Disease Foundation Australia report released on 22 May shows Australia is a world-class leader in fighting macular disease.

Ground-breaking work 

The Journey to See: A Model for Success, highlights the ground-breaking work Australia has delivered over the last 10 years in the treatment and management of age-related macular disease, which is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia.
About one in seven Australians or 1.25 million people aged 50 years and over, show some evidence of macular degeneration. The disease also affects young people.
The government is addressing vision loss and blindness in our communities.
For example, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme subsidies several medications used in the treatment of aged-related macular disease. Since 2013 the government has spent $1.67 billion on medication for aged-related macular disease through the PBS.
Specific services in

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By | June 3rd, 2018|Research|

Freckles on iris indicate high risk of melanoma: QUT research

University of Queensland researchers have found that freckles and moles appearing on the iris indicate a high risk of melanoma, particularly in people under 40 years of age.

Dermatology Research Centre’s Associate Professor Rick Sturm said the presence of pigmented lesions was an effective predictor of the risk of melanoma that complemented traditional factors.

“We found the presence of three or more iris pigmented lesions was associated with a 45 percent increased risk of melanoma,” Dr Sturm said.

“This association was particularly strong in people under 40.

“The presence of iris freckling and naevi (moles), provides additional information about an individual’s melanoma risk over and above factors like blue eyes, red hair, fair skin and the number of moles on the skin.”

The study, involving Professor Peter Soyer and Dr Antonia Laino, involved 1117 participants of European background living in South-East Queensland.

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By | January 21st, 2018|Research|

AHPRA establishes National Scheme research framework to improve patient safety

National Boards governing 14 health-care-practitioner groups, including medicine and optometry, and their supervising Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency have published a research framework to help transform health-practitioner regulation to improve patient safety.

The framework sets out research priorities and principles for National Boards and AHPRA to focus their research efforts and guide the use of National Scheme data and information

Nationally significant dataset

The National Scheme holds a nationally-significant dataset, including data on more than 670,000 health practitioners across the 14 professions (soon to be 15 professions in 2018 when paramedicine joins).

“Our data and research infrastructure has been steadily maturing over the past few years and we are now better able to translate the outcomes of research and evaluation activities into developments that will have significant benefits for patients and practitioners“ Mr Martin Fletcher, chief executive officer of AHPRA, said.

“This new research framework ensures we continue to contribute to patient safety and brings us closer to becoming a global leader in regulatory research.”

Priority research areas

The framework includes the priority research areas of: defining harms and risks related to the practice of regulated health professions, regulatory taxonomy or classification scheme, risk factors for complaints and/or poor practitioner performance, evidence for standards, codes and/or guidelines, evaluating regulatory interventions, stakeholder satisfaction and engagement, work readiness and workforce

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By | January 21st, 2018|Research|