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Monday / August 15.
HomeminewsGG Visits Vital RANZCO Medical Research Programs

GG Visits Vital RANZCO Medical Research Programs

Her Excellency Ms. Quentin Bryce AC CVO has visited RANZCO Eye Foundation’s two primary medical research programs based at the Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide: the Australian and New Zealand Registry of Advanced Glaucoma and the Australian and New Zealand Ophthalmic Surveillance Unit.

The visits come at a crucial time in the national health calendar as the RANZCO Eye Foundation’s annual JulEYE community awareness campaign implores all Australians, young and old, to get their eyes checked.

“We are absolutely delighted to have our Patron, The Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce, visit the RANZCO Eye Foundation’s two primary medical research programs based in Adelaide,” Jacinta Spurrett, CEO, RANZCO Eye Foundation said.

She said just three years into the Foundation’s five-year agreement to support the programs, the DNA research, which aims to identify new genes linked to glaucoma and shed further light on the causes, treatment and management of rare eye diseases, is saving people’s vision and benefiting patients’ lives.

Just one year ago, RANZCO Fellow Associate James Craig discovered two new genes linked to open angle glaucoma blindness. The principal aim of the Australian and New Zealand Registry of Advanced Glaucoma that he leads is to establish the world’s largest registry of advanced glaucoma cases.

“The registry is performing two vital roles,” said Associate Professor Jamie Craig. “Firstly, it will assist in accelerating future research projects aimed at identifying new glaucoma genes and genetic risk profiles. Secondly, it will enable us to provide genetic risk profiles that can be shared with the ophthalmic community to assist in the early detection of glaucoma and the most effective treatment for advanced Glaucoma.”

“The registry database is applying strict entry criteria based on all clinical and demographic information provided as well as obtaining and analysing high quality DNA samples to ensure it is creating a national database that has a global application. This is truly a coordinated effort in tackling glaucoma and one that is visionary and is already saving sight in some of the families involved,” adds Jacinta Spurrett.

The Australian and New Zealand Ophthalmic Surveillance Unit, led by RANZCO Fellow Associate Professor Richard Mills, is credited with obtaining vital insights into rarer eye diseases causing blindness.

“Our rare disease surveillance unit was formed to develop an efficient mechanism for accurately documenting the presentation of patients with specific uncommon conditions across Australia & New Zealand. Our program aids in the facilitation of further investigation of such cases allowing us to collect vital information that can translate into findings that can be issued to the ophthalmic community along with updated diagnostic and management guidelines. This sharing of information ultimately assists the national, and indeed international, ophthalmic community in managing more uncommon diseases ophthalmologists may discover in patients,” A/Prof. Richard Mills added.

“This project is crucial in disseminating information acquired by the unit to the ophthalmic community and helps guide appropriate prevention and health resources allocation. Without this network some patients with little known eye diseases would not be getting the information and help they need as well as the support that otherwise exists for the more common eye diseases,” he said.

Glaucoma a Leading Cause of Blindness

“Affecting more than 60 million people glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. In Australia there are more than 300,000 Australians suffering from some form of glaucoma. Of these, almost 40,000 suffer vision loss or blindness. Whilst one in two hundred Australians over the age of 40 will develop glaucoma, half of those in the earlier stages are undiagnosed, and tragically may present later when most of their vision is irreversibly lost,” A/Prof. Jamie Craig said.

“These alarming statistics highlight the need for the early diagnosis of eye disease in order to minimise vision loss – many people who have lost vision could have been saved if the diagnosis and treatment could have been started sooner. This is why the work of both the Australian and New Zealand Ophthalmic Surveillance Unit and the Australian and New Zealand Registry of Advanced Glaucoma is so important,” Ms Spurrett added.

Along with funding from the RANZCO Eye Foundation the Australian and New Zealand Registry of Advanced Glaucoma is being supported by project partners – Flinders Medical Centre in South Australia, the Department of Genetic Pathology at Flinders University, the Royal Society for the Blind (South Australia), Glaucoma Australia, the Australian Genome Research Facility, and the Genetic Epidemiology Unit at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research.

The Australian and New Zealand Ophthalmic Surveillance Unit, also in its third year, has the support of the RANZCO Eye Foundation as well as Flinders University and Flinders Medical Centre (South Australia), the Centre for Clinical Eye Research at the National Health and Medical Research Council.


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