In recognition of World Sight Day on 12 October 2017, VisionBridge is delighted to feature some extraordinary examples of innovation, discovery and achievement from the world of eye research. VisionBridge continues to support those pioneers in eye research who work tirelessly to prevent sight loss, treat eye disease, restore sight and improve the quality of life for all patients.

1.0 Understanding the patterns and processes of disease

Understanding the patterns and processes of disease is a fundamental prerequisite for delivering sustainable, effective and cost efficient treatments, providing long term benefits to patients and cost savings to the health care system. The ability to identify the drivers of disease and new therapeutic targets, create opportunities for earlier and preventative therapeutic interventions and alternative treatments, predict the onset and rate of disease progression and gauge the way in which individual patients may react to treatments are all crucial weapons in the fight against sight loss.

1.1 The case for basic science – Professor Alan Stitt

1.2 The genetic revolution – Dr Denize Atan

1.3 The importance of earlier interventions and alternative treatments – John Greenwood

2.0 Detection, diagnosis, measuring and monitoring

The ongoing developments of detection, diagnosis and monitoring of eye disease delivered bye the research community continue to highlight the critical role that new technologies, techniques and approaches play in disrupting conventional practice. They not only support improved prognosis, evidence based management of patients and the development of biomarkers but also help to validate and refine earlier, targeted therapeutic interventions alongside a (soon to be) cheaper and swifter diagnostic regime. The growth of clinicians’ knowledge about the impact of eye disease and the safety and actual effectiveness of treatments is also underpinned by a robust testing, measuring and monitoring regime. Such developments ensure that the momentum is maintained behind creating a more accessible, flexible, responsive eyehealth and eyecare service that emphasizes the need for greater patient self-care and individual responsibility and which can also impact on other areas of health.

2.1 How the application of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can assist in the speed and quality of diagnosis – Dr Pearse A Keane

2.2 Correcting mitochondrial decline and improving retinal function-implications for AMD as it reduces inflammation – Professor Glen Jeffery

2.3 Handheld Oximetric Ophthalmoscope for Enhanced Diagnosis of Retinopathy of Prematurity – Professor Andrew I McNaught

3.0 Treatment

Eye research constantly questions the efficacy of standard treatment approaches as it remains clear that not all treatments suit every patient and indeed there is always an imperative to create treatments which are better targeted, less invasive, longer lasting and require less applications in the fight to prevent further sight loss, stabilise conditions and ultimately restore sight. Work is also ongoing to treat patients without the current unpleasant side effects and surgical shortcomings. The breadth and depth of eye research continues to grow in the treatment arena, reflected in the research into stem cell and gene therapies, drug treatments and drug delivery, pharmacogenetics and personalised medicine, light, x-ray and other non invasive therapies, antibodies, neuro-protection, the innovation behind surgical instruments and techniques that are safer, faster, more accurate and less invasive.

3.1 New corneal therapies: From Bench to Bedside – Professor Keith Meek

3.2 Robotics for Eye Surgery: Improving Surgical Dexterity and Speed – Dr Christos Bergeles

3.3 Gene therapy options for AMD – Dr. Simon Clark

4.0 Rehabilitation

Healthcare professionals cannot soley rely on the efficacy of a range of treatments to improve clinical outcomes for patients. Support is at hand to help them assess and even diagnose patients’ conditions as well as plan, explain and deliver appropriate treatments with the help of the orthoptic community backed by evidential research. There is also an impetus within the research community to challenge accepted rehabilitation practices and to focus on initiatives that can measurably deliver results. Technologies that enhance functional vision or deliver so called “artificial sight” in the form of intraocular and retinal implants as well as various tele-health devices to support treatment regimes and positive lifestyle choices and low vision aids to support everyday tasks, are very illustrative of the innovation driving the eye research community.

4.1 Orthoptic research spanning assessment, diagnosis, and treatment leading to improved patient care – Professor Helen Davis

4.2 Technology combined with rehabilitation can improve quality of life for patients – Mr Felipe Dhawahir-Scala

4.3 Enhancing the lifestyles of people who are blind and visually impaired – Shaun Kemp

5.0 Patients

Despite the extraordinary scientific breakthroughs that may deliver invaluable improvements to the quality of patients’ lives, we must not forget the critical role that patients themselves can play in the development of a holistic, innovative and patient centred eyecare system. This point is not only reflected in the following contributory texts but also in the outcomes delivered by the James Lind Alliance (JLA) and the Sight Loss and Vision Priority Setting Partnership which has brought patients, relatives, carers and eye health professionals together to prioritise research activities. Eye research must also continue to support patients in helping themselves, remaining abreast of symptoms and the practical impact of sight loss as well as changing their behaviours so as to mitigate the risks of avoidable sight loss. Improved counselling and stronger interaction with healthcare professionals around the point of diagnosis for unavoidable and avoidable sight loss, better experiences for children in eye clinics and the greater knowledge gained by ophthalmic nurses in the management of glaucoma patients are more examples of how eye research can support practical solutions alongside scientific advances.

5.1 Patient Power – it actually works! – Professor Philip I. Murray

5.2 Combining treatment and counseling to improve patient outcomes – Julian Jackson

5.3 The importance of integrating diabetic eye care with diabetes management – Dr Elizabeth Wilkinson

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