Help us celebrate 30 years of saving sight

The Save Sight Institute is pleased to invite supporters, patients and friends to an exciting black tie gala dinner to celebrate 30 years of preserving and restoring vision, and to support the work of current clinicians and researchers finding new and better ways for everyone to see the future.

The Save Sight Institute is pleased to invite supporters, patients and friends to an exciting black tie gala dinner to celebrate 30 years of preserving and restoring vision,  and to support the work of current clinicians and researchers finding new and better ways for everyone to see the future.

A night to remember. 

To be held in the Great Hall at The University of Sydney on Friday 4th September 2015, the night promises to be one you will not forget.

With an all-star lineup of Australia’s best entertainers, tickets will sell fast so you are encouraged to act early to avoid disappointment.

  • MC – James Valentine
  • Vocal entertainment – Rachael Leahcar (read more)
  • After Dinner Speaker – Peter FitzSimons (read more)
  • Blind Wine Tasting competition
  • Three course meal with specially selected beverage package
  • Much, much more…

The evening will be held in partnership with Lions Clubs Australia who have supported Save Sight Institute in many ways since its inception in 1985. We are proud and pleased to continue working with the good people from Lions Clubs as we look to the future.

Tickets are $225 each or $2000 for a table of ten. Attire is black tie. Limited tickets available. Purchase here or direct email enquiries to our Events Team or by calling (02) 9382 7306.

Prospective sponsors or corporate partners are invited to contact us to discuss opportunities to support this event.

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Are stem cells the future for treating macular degeneration?

Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can grow indefinitely with an ability to turn into any type of cells in the body (this ability is called pluripotency).

Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can grow indefinitely with an ability to turn into any type of cells in the body (this ability is called pluripotency).

Stem cell research, especially human embryonic stem cell research, holds great potential to treat many diseases such as cancer and diseases in central and peripheral nerve system. However, there are considerable ethical concerns around the use of human embryos.

In 2006, Prof. Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University in Japan, found a way to make induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) by reprogramming the skin cells of adult mice with specific genomic factors (so called Yamanaka factors: OCT4, SOX2, KLF4, and c-MYC).

Shortly after the successful animal experiments, he successfully made human iPS cells from human adult skin cells and won a Nobel Prize in 2012 as a result.

iPS cells began a new era of stem cell research because they have many of the characteristics of embryonic stem cells whilst avoiding ethical concerns as the cells come from the patient.

This also means that they will not be rejected if they are grafted back for example as nerve cells into the brain or the retina.

In the future, iPS cells may be used to treat diseases in a variety of ways. They may be used to replace cells that have worn out.

Transplanting photoreceptors is something we hope to do in future, although we will also need to transplant retinal pigment epithelial cells to support the photoreceptors. It’s a bit tricky and we are certainly still several years away from clinical use.

Another potential clinical use of iPS cells is to replace genetically defective cells with freshly made cells where the genetic defect has been repaired.

The other use of iPS cells are to model disease in a dish in order to understand the disease better and potentially find new treatments. This is what we are doing.

One recent report that has moved the field forward more quickly than expected is that iPS cells can be induced by applying the right factors at the right time to actually assemble retinas in a dish.

Use of iPS cells in Macular Telangiectasia Type 2
We are using this cutting edge iPS cell technology in our laboratory to investigate potential causes and future treatments for macular degeneration. As we have written in previous editions of MaculaNews, we believe that a deficiency of Muller cells, the major supporting cells nurturing other neurons, may contribute to macular degeneration. If we can identify what this is we might find a better treatment.

In our laboratory, we are currently using iPS cells from patient skin biopsy samples to model macular degeneration in a dish.

We have obtained patient skin biopsy samples from Prof. Mark Gillies clinic and successfully reprogrammed them into iPS cells with Yamanaka factors in collaboration with an internationally recognized stem cell research group, Dr. Alice Pebay’s laboratory, at the Centre for Eye Research Australia in Melbourne.

Our goal is to differentiate patient derived iPS cells into retinal cups in the laboratory and isolate Muller cells from the retinal cups.

After this, we will study the Muller cells to understand what is wrong with them and how it might be fixed.

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Figure 1*: shows how induced pluripotent cells are made from a patient’s skin biopsy and what they can be used for. Cells taken from the skin biopsy are grown in a dish. They are then turned into stem cells using “reprogramming factors”, which is a major scientific advance. If the cells are taken from patients with a disease caused by a single gene defect, this can be corrected and the cells can theoretically be put back into the body to replace the diseased cells. This is already starting for some diseases, but most macular diseases cannot yet be treated in this way because they are caused by a combination of many gene defects which are not yet completely understood. The other use is that the cells presumably have the same defect as the patient, because that is where they came from. So they can be studied in a dish and tested in various ways to find out what is causing the disease. This is what we are trying to do for macular disease. We also intend to develop the cells into the various cell types that make up the retina and put them back in the patient’s retina, but that is a long-term vision. *iPS cells derivation and its applications (http://www.eurostemcell.org/factsheet/ips-cells-and-reprogramming-turn-any-cell-body-stem-cell)

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Figure 2: shows the progress we have made so far in making these iPC stem cells. (A) shows the cells grown from the skin biopsy of a patient with macular disease. They were reprogrammed to produce stem cells, which can be seen as little islands, each of which has grown from a single stem cell (B). These “clones” are grown up to produce a cell “line” which has come from a single stem cell (C). The middle row shows cells from one of our patients “stained” with coloured antibodies that detect the stem cell markers shown, demonstrating that they really are stem cells. In the third row are 2 stem cell clones from a second patient with macular disease that are positive for the same stem cell markers.

Volunteers sought for free advanced eye tests

Volunteers needed! Why? The Visionsearch1 Normals project is creating a reference set of data that can be considered a representation of the normal population so that individual readings can be compared to and subsequently identify variations.

Volunteers needed!

Why?

The Visionsearch1 Normals project is creating a reference set of data that can be considered a representation of the normal population so that individual readings can be compared to and subsequently identify variations. This data is being collected using multifocal Visual Evoked Potential equipment.

Who?

Participants must be between the ages of 20 and 50 years with healthy eyes.

If there is a known problem with the retina (this includes macular degeneration or glaucoma) or have photosensitive epilepsy then the subject is excluded.

What?

The following tests will be conducted to determine whether you are a good candidate:

  • Visual Acuity
  • Humphrey Visual Field
  • Colour Vision
  • Intraocular pressure (to exclude glaucoma)
  • OCT (to exclude any retinal diseases/issues)

If you show no anomalies in the above tests, you will then sit a mfVEP test on the Visionsearch1 System. The multifocal VEP measures the visual information received at the visual processing center. Electrodes will be placed on the back of your head and you will be required to focus on a computer screen with a flashing pattern on it. 

Volunteers will be paid $40 for their participation.

Please contact Daniella at VisionSearch: daniella@visionsearch.biz to schedule a time. Testing is conducted on Saturdays at Save Sight Institute clinic. 

Inappropriate use of over-the-counter antibiotic putting vision at risk

Doctors from Sydney’s Save Sight Institute have warned that a common first-line approach by general practitioners, pharmacists and optometrists to treating ‘red eye’ can delay the diagnosis and treatment of microbial keratitis, an ophthalmic emergency which can lead to reduced vision and in serious cases, loss of the eye.

Doctors from Sydney’s Save Sight Institute have warned that a common first-line approach by general practitioners, pharmacists and optometrists to treating ‘red eye’ can delay the diagnosis and treatment of microbial keratitis, an ophthalmic emergency which can lead to reduced vision and in serious cases, loss of the eye.

Chloramphenicol is a common topical antibiotic which is now available over-the-counter in Australia, sold under a number of different brand names. It plays an important role in the management of bacterial conjunctivitis, mild corneal injuries and post-operative recovery.

Manufacturers do not recommend its use under the following circumstances: photophobia, severe eye pain, reduced vision, contact lens wear and other conditions. 

However, according to Professor Stephanie Watson “The extent to which pharmacists screen for these symptoms is unknown, difficult to quantify and demands further research. 

“Chloramphenicol is bacteriostatic, rather than bactericidal. This means that it is not suitable to treat microbial keratitis. Despite this, we have seen a number of patients who were given chloramphenicol as a first line approach, which of course did not treat the microbial keratitis, but did delay its appropriate diagnosis and intervention. The delay can be catastrophic.” 

In one case, a 69 year old woman obtained chloramphenicol drops and ointment from her pharmacist, and self-administered without medical consultation. Her medical history of rheumatoid arthritis related dry eye put her at higher risk of microbial keratitis, but this was not taken into account. After three weeks, her vision continued to deteriorate and despite seeking ophthalmological management and appropriate treatment, the organism became multi-resistant, the infection progressed and the eye required removal.  

In another recent case, a 16 year old girl was advised by her optometrist to use chloramphenicol eye drops. This patient was also at a higher risk of developing microbial keratitis because of orthokeratology contact lens wear. After a week of worsening symptoms she sought treatment from an ophthalmologist. Her eye was left with a scar and a slow to heal corneal ulcer, reducing her vision permanently.

Dr Dana Robaei urges all non-ophthalmic health professionals, including general practitioners and pharmacists, to ensure they are fully aware of the symptoms and signs of microbial keratitis. “The increased availability of over-the-counter therapies requires better education to understand risk factors associated with microbial keratitis. Chloramphenicol is not an appropriate treatment course. The condition requires urgent consultation with an ophthalmologist, who is the only medical specialist with the requisite training and resources to diagnose and manage this sight-threatening condition.”

More information: 

Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, Letter to the Editor

Clinical and Experimental Ophthalmology, Volume 43