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Wednesday / June 29.
HomeminewsOz Optom Wins Academy Award

Oz Optom Wins Academy Award

It was the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes several years ago that led eminent Australian optometrist Professor Nathan Efron to ground-breaking research into non-invasive ophthalmic diagnosis of diabetic nerve damage.

It was ideas generated by discussions with his own diabetes specialist that led him to investigate linkages between the nerves in the eyes and nerves elsewhere in the body with the aim of developing a relatively simple and non-invasive eye test to identify neuropathy (or diabetic nerve disease).

The breakthrough is so profound and important that Prof. Efron is to be honoured with a special award from the American Academy of Optometry for his research into non-invasive ophthalmic diagnosis of diabetic nerve damage.

Prof. Efron will be presented with the Glenn A. Fry Lecture Award, which recognises a distinguished scientist or clinician’s current research contributions.

The breakthrough is so profound and important that Prof. Efron is to be honoured with a special award from the American Academy of Optometry for his research into non-invasive ophthalmic diagnosis of diabetic nerve damage.

As recipient, Prof. Efron will give a lecture at the academy’s annual meeting, held this November in San Francisco, on his research and in the 40 year history of this annual award, he is only the second person outside of North America to receive it.

Neuropathy is typically measured by taking skin biopsies from the foot and running a series of specialized tests that can take up to a week to complete. In many cases, this debilitating condition is not identified until serious, and irreparable, damage has already been done.

Using non-invasive optical technology – a corneal confocal microscope and a non-contact corneal aesthesiometer – Prof. Efron has shown that the fine nerve fibres in the cornea are a direct reflection of nerve health in the hands and feet and can be used to accurately diagnose neuropathy in very early stages.

This research has shown that measurements of the nerve fibre layer of the retina and visual field assessment can also be used as indicators of neuropathy, although these techniques may only be limited to the identification of more serious damage.

Prof. Efron and his team at the Queensland University of Technology have now established a four-year clinical trial assessing the optimal method of ophthalmic neuropathy diagnosis. This will hopefully lead to a standard protocol for optometrists and ophthalmologists to quickly and simply identify people at risk of neuropathy, anticipate the level of damage and assess treatment outcomes.

Prof. Efron, who is based at Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation (IHBI), describes the annual Fry Lecture Award was the “Nobel Prize” of optometry.

“I’m thrilled, humbled and honoured to receive it,” he says.

“This is considered the most important award internationally for current research in the field of optometry.”

Professor Efron, who joined QUT in 2006, has spent the past 10 years researching ophthalmic markers of diabetic neuropathy.

One of his current research projects at QUT is a five-year study of the link between eye nerve damage and nerve changes in the feet of diabetic patients.
“The information we gain during this study will be used to validate and develop novel new eye tests to detect and monitor a potentially severe complication of diabetes known as peripheral neuropathy,” he says.

“We will also learn how nerve fibres change over time in diabetic patients, which will help us better understand peripheral neuropathy.”

Professor Efron is also well-known for his research on contact lenses. He has published seven textbooks on this topic and, as a result, contact lens students and clinical optometrists around the world are familiar with his name.

Editors Note:
Congratulations Nathan from the team here at mivision.

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