SSI’s Prof McCluskey awarded top teacher award for APAC

Professor Peter McCluskey was awarded the Mark Tso Golden Apple Award which honours the most dedicated teacher of clinical ophthalmology in the Asia-Pacific Region at the Asia Pacific Meeting held in Hyderabad India in January 2013, with the medal being presented by the President of India.

Professor Peter McCluskey was awarded the Mark Tso Golden Apple Award which honours the most dedicated teacher of clinical ophthalmology in the Asia-Pacific Region at the Asia Pacific Meeting held in Hyderabad India in January 2013, with the medal being presented by the President of India.

Professor McCluskey is only the second Australian to receive this prestigious award.

Inaugural ‘Kids with Different Eyes’ day a success

Save Sight Institute was pleased to present its first annual information day for families on Saturday 10th August.

Save Sight Institute was pleased to present its first annual information day for families on Saturday 10th August.

With a specific focus on paediatric eye disease, the full day seminar was attended by almost 90 people, and featured an expert line up of ophthalmic speakers, including Professor Peter McCluskey, Professor John Grigg, Associate Professor Robyn Jamieson and Dr Caroline Catt .

Also on-hand to present, answer questions and showcase their excellent support services, were representatives from Vision Australia, the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children and Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.

“Parenting a vision-impaired child can be a complex and daunting experience” said Professor McCluskey. “Save Sight Institute has decided to deliver this annual information day to connect, inform and empower families. We will do this by sharing information, explaining the latest research developments, answering questions, providing access to key service providers and providing an opportunity to meet and talk to people who understand the issues and worries that you face.”

A broad range of presentations were made including:

– Understanding eyes
– Major childhood eye diseases
– Education and learning
– Emotional and social impact
– Orientation and mobility
– Technology and low vision aids
– Genetics of eye disease
– The future of treating kids

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and suggestions were sought to help us make the day even more useful and relevant to families next year.

Anyone keen to attend the 2014 seminar is encouraged to register their interest as soon as possible by emailing ssi.clinic@sydney.edu.au.

Focused on Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP)

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) refers to a group of retinal dystrophies that cause progressive degeneration of the retina.

Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) refers to a group of retinal dystrophies that cause progressive degeneration of the retina.

Around one in 3,000 children are born with RP, and the condition can strike any family, even one with no known history of the disease.

The retina, located at the back of the eye, is made up of millions of light-sensitive ‘photoreceptor cells’ which transmit electrical impulses to the brain, thus enabling sight.

RP involves the degeneration of these photoreceptors over time.

Typical symptoms include “night blindness” and “tunnel vision”. Cataracts are also a common complication.

RP sufferers have no common age of onset of symptoms and no uniform rate and extent of vision loss. These can vary markedly from individual to individual and are not usually able to be predicted. There is currently no cure for RP.

Exome Sequencing: Finding Answers for Families

Associate Professor Robyn Jamieson is researching the underlying genetic causes of inherited eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.

Associate Professor Robyn Jamieson is researching the underlying genetic causes of inherited eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.

“There are recent striking technological advances in our capacity to examine all of the genes in a person” says Assoc.Prof. Jamieson “and ‘exome sequencing’ is one of the most exciting avenues now available.”

Each of us has around three billion dot points (called bases) in our cells that contribute to our genetic makeup. Around 45 million of these bases are found in the coding regions (exons) of our 23,000 genes, and there are on average at least 10 exons per gene.

“Exome Sequencing” allows us to look at most of the key bases in just one test, rather than having to sequence each of the exons individually with 230,000 separate tests!

“We are now using this more accessible technique to discover the underlying disease genes which cause inherited eye diseases” says Assoc Prof Jamieson.

“We are collaborating with a number of international sequencing centres and, most excitingly, have already made molecular diagnoses in patients where this was previously not possible.”

Further illustrating the international importance of this work, Assoc. Prof. Jamieson was invited to present at the Human Genome Organisation International Meeting in 2012.

The identification of disease genes offers direct diagnostic benefits to patients, and is especially critical for the development of new treatment strategies such as gene therapy.

“Gene therapy is an emerging technique” says Robyn “that uses genes to treat or prevent disease. Still experimental, it offers much potential for doctors to treat a disorder by inserting a healthy copy of the gene into the eye instead of using drugs or surgery.”

SSI researchers develop new treatment for dry eye and blepharitis

Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce enough of the right kind of tears to stay adequately lubricated, occuring with and exacerbating eyelid inflammation, known as blepharitis.

Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce enough of the right kind of tears to stay adequately lubricated, occuring with and exacerbating eyelid inflammation, known as blepharitis.
Blepharitis is the most common ocular condition seen by eye care practitioners, present in nearly 50% of patients.

Red, painful, irritated and itchy eyes, along with blurred vision, result from blepharitis and dry eye. These symptoms worsen with air-conditioning, reading, computer work and television. Conjunctivitis and styes are complications and in the worst-case scenario, blindness may ensue following infectious keratitis or post-cataract surgery intraocular inflammation. 

Dry eye and blepharitis are a major financial and time burden to both the patient and the health care system. Despite the prevalence, no single treatment is available to address the underlying aspects of blepharitis. Current options address part of the problem, but are typically cumbersome (ie manual lid hygiene regimes), ineffective (ie lubricant eye drops) or expensive.

Researchers from Save Sight Institute have developed a new eye drop, which provides relief whilst uniquely addressing all underlying aspects of blepharitis.

Principle inventors Dr Kenneth Ooi and Clinical Professor Stephanie Watson recently conducted a clinical study with patients, finding that the new topical therapy clearly decreased signs and symptoms of blepharitis and dry eye.

According to Prof. Watson “Current treatments only address the symptoms of the condition, and can have significant side effects. This new eye drop treats both the causes and the symptoms of blepharitis, safely and with no steroid-related side effects.”

Dr Ooi points out that current approaches to treating blepharitis include a tedious eyelid hygiene routine which many patients, especially the elderly, find impossible to maintain.

“Artificial tear drops offer only temporary relief of symptoms” says Dr Ooi “and despite steroid orcyclosporine drops being available, they do not address the underlying condition, can cause numerous ocular side effects and in the case of cyclosporine, can be very expensive to manufacture”. 

The new eye drop decreases cholesterol production and down regulates pro-inflammatory cytokines, thereby improving tear film stability and reducing inflammation.

Conjunctivitis may also be decreased because bacteria could be deprived of a nutrient-rich cholesterol environment, and there is no steroid-associated intraocular pressure increase or cataract development.

There is also a faster onset of action compared with cyclosporine eyedrops.

The new eye drop is cost-effective to manufacture compared with other anti-inflammatory agents, and can be combined with lubricants, antibiotics and/or steroids to enhance the therapeutic impact.

The eye drop also has potential to treat conditions such as post- LASIK dry-eye, Sjogren’s syndrome, rosacea, atopic keratoconjunctivitis, ocular cicatricial pemphigoid and episcleritis. 

Watson and Ooi’s work has been selected for presentation at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) annual congress and was also selected as finalists in the UNSW Innovation Awards for therapy.

The new eye drop is not yet available to the public, as funding is currently being sought to complete dosing studies.

SSI SightFighter’s raise $3000 for eye research

Congratulations to all SightFighters who completed the Sydney City2Surf in August!

Congratulations to all SightFighters who completed the Sydney City2Surf in August!

Not only was the day a lot of fun, but we raised over $3000 to support eye research at SSI.

Patients, doctors, researchers, family members and friends all ran or walked the 14 kilometres from Sydney to Bondi Beach. The camaraderie and team spirit was great to be part of.

This was Save Sight Institute’s first team in the City2Surf. We had 25 people join, and hope that even more become a part of this great experience in 2014!