A groundbreaking Australian study on bionic eye implants in cats is bringing artificial vision one step closer to being trialled in humans.
Lead author, Dr. Penny Allen from The Alfred Hospital and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in Melbourne, described the study findings to delegates at the 42nd Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmology conference in Adelaide.
Dr. Allen and her colleagues successfully implanted an electrode array in the suprachoroidal space beneath the area centralis in six cats. After three months, electrical stimulation was well-tolerated and resulted in electrically evoked responses, which can be measured in the occiptal cortex.
Dr. Allen told mivision that she and her team would be trialling human implants as soon as 2012 to 2013. “We are already assessing patients via a number of tests, including the level of vision in people with retinal dystrophies. People who are eligible for implants must have an intact optic nerve and must also be assessed psychologically.”
However, medical innovations and new treatments are often stymied because many people only seek help when their eye disease is already advanced. We encourage them to know their family history, have regular eye checks, and to seek help as soon as they notice they have a problem with their vision.
“We will then put them through stimulation strategies to learn how to interpret the impulses [from the implant],” she added.
Presenting the Glaucoma Update Lecture, was Professor Claude Burgoyne who is Van Buskirk Chair for Ophthalmic Research and Director of the Optic Nerve Head Research Laboratory at the Devers Eye Institute in Portland, Oregon. Prof. Burgoyne reported on how he and others are optimising spectral domain Optical Coherence Tomographs (SD OCT), equipped with two 870 nm or 1060 nm wavelengths for visualisation, delineation and quantification of the deep neural and connective tissues of the human optic nerve head.
According to Prof. Burgoyne “clinical detection of the onset and progression of glaucomatous damage to the optic nerve head and the determination of a safe level of intraocular pressure are central to the care of every glaucoma patient.”
Also on the subject of revolutions in ophthalmics, Dr. John Grigg, Chair of the Congress Scientific Program Committee, said that “with quantum advances in technology in every facet of our lives, it is not surprising that people have very high expectations of those who deliver their eye care.
“However, medical innovations and new treatments are often stymied because many people only seek help when their eye disease is already advanced. We encourage them to know their family history, have regular eye checks, and to seek help as soon as they notice they have a problem with their vision,” he added.
Dr. Salvatore Scuderi, from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, who presented his study on fungal eye infections which found that fungal endopthalmitis (FE) causes poor visual outcomes in most patients.
The retrospective analysis of 23 patients all diagnosed with fungal endopthalmitis – which comprises almost 10 per cent of all endopthalmitis, found the most common organism for endogenous endopthalmitis was candida but paecoilomyces most commonly caused exogenous opthalmitis.
Delegates heard that young people aged 20 to 30 years have the highest incidence of infected corneas and the highest rate of contact lens use, which suggests that better education about contact lens hygiene is still needed.
A poster abstract showed that young boys (and their parents) need more education about protecting their eyes and are three times more likely to suffer traumatic eye injuries than girls.