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Research reveals how cornea responds to damage

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

New research on how corneal cells behave could lead to better treatments for vision impairment and blindness.

The research was conducted by a team from the Centenary Institute, a Sydney-based independent medical research institute, and led by Dr Guy Lyons. 

It revealed that damaged cells in the centre of the cornea are shed into the tear fluid. New cells are then made at the edge of the cornea and later migrate to the centre to replace the shed cells. 

The research showed that the mechanism that drove this central migration was very simple and did not require interactions with any other cells in the eye.

Dr Lyons said the findings could potentially assist in designing new treatments to repair eye damage that the body would otherwise be unable to heal.

“If we can understand what makes the healthy cells migrate and proliferate to replenish the damaged tissue, we might be able to design treatments to repair the damage,” he explained.

“As a result of this study, we now have a better understanding of how some clinical eye conditions develop. This information will assist in the future prevention and treatment of these conditions. It will also assist with the development of replacement corneas engineered in the laboratory.”

Dr Lyons said the research team also found that very low levels of UV – described as “similar to what would be experienced from spending a few hours outdoors in sunlight” – were sufficient to damage the corneal cells.

According to the Centenary Institute, corneal damage accounts for 5.7 million cases of serious visual impairment worldwide, including 2.8 million cases of blindness. In Australia alone, visual impairment that cannot be corrected by spectacles affects around 180,000 Australians.

The findings of the study led by Dr Lyons was recently published in the journal Nature Communications. It was said the team would now be focusing on improving corneal transplants and recovery from injury and infections. more

Diabetes-related vision loss rising at ‘alarming’ rate

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A new study has shown that instances of visual impairment due to diabetes increased more than 60 per cent worldwide in the span of two decades.

The meta-analysis was authored by a global consortium led by researchers at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Optometry in Florida, US and the Vision and Eye Care Unit at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK. 

The team also included Australian researchers from Sydney’s Brien Holden Vision Institute and the NHMRC Centre for Clinical Eye Research at Flinders University in Adelaide.

An analysis of published population studies from 1990 to 2012 found that blindness and visual impairment due to diabetic retinopathy (DR) increased significantly in the 20-year period. 

In 2010, one in 39 blind people was blind due to DR, which increased 27 per cent since 1990. Of those with moderate or severe vision impairment, one in 52 people had vision loss attributed to diabetes, an increase of 64 per cent since 1990.

The researchers indicated that poor control of glucose levels and lack of access to eye-health services in many parts of the world likely contributed to the increase.

Dr Rupert Bourne, lead investigator of the report, ophthalmologist and professor and associate director of the Vision and Eye Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University, stated, “With the alarming prevalence of vision loss due to diabetes rising more than two-thirds in the last 20 years, the precipitous global epidemic of diabetes must be addressed.”

During the 20-year period analysed in the study, the regions of the world with the highest number of people visually impaired by DR were South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and west Sub-Saharan Africa. The regions with the highest number of people who were rendered blind from DR were East Asia, tropical Latin America, and south Sub-Saharan Africa.

In people older than 50, the greatest increase in the prevalence of blindness caused by DR occurred in south Sub-Saharan Africa, southern Latin America and central Sub-Saharan Africa. Those regions with the greatest increase in the prevalence of visual impairment caused by DR in this age group lived in central, south and tropical Latin America. Results showed a slight decrease in visual impairment caused by DR in south and southeast Asia, Oceania, and east and west Sub-Saharan Africa.

The researchers recommended public policy planning in the regions most affected by DR, including improving control of systemic risk factors such as glucose and blood pressure among people with diabetes; increasing health education and awareness of the risk of visual loss from DR; and intensified prevention and treatment of DR through the introduction of laser treatments, intra-vitreal injections of steroids and anti-VEGF drugs, among others. more

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