The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest and most respected eye and vision research organisation in the world. Fighting Blindness were delighted to see the results of research which we fund presented to this international community at their recent annual conference in Seattle. We were particularly proud to see presentations from a number of our younger upcoming researchers including PhD students from Dr Breandán Kennedy’s lab in University College Dublin (UCD) and Prof Tom Cotter’s lab in University College Cork (UCC).
Dr Matthew Carrigan from Prof Jane Farrar’s lab in Trinity College Dublin gave a fantastic presentation on our Target 5000 project. Two junior doctors, Dr Conor Malone and Dr Kirk Stephenson, based at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear and Mater Misericordiae University Hospitals in Dublin respectively also presented posters on the Target 5000 project. Target 5000 is a Fighting Blindness project that aims to provide genetic testing for the estimated 5,000 people in Ireland who have a genetic retinal condition.
Fighting Blindness Research Manager Dr Fionnuala Hickey attended the conference and took the opportunity to meet with members of our international Medical and Scientific Advisory Board and gain updates on some of the exciting vision research being carried out around the world. These included the first ever report on transplanting stem cells derived from a patient’s skin to the back of their eye in an attempt to restore vision. This was carried out in Japan on a patient with advanced wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) who had not responded to other treatments.
Researchers from Iowa presented their work which is looking at using the novel CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system (which we spoke about in our last edition of Visionaries) to treat a specific X-linked form of retinitis pigmentosa (RP). They have used gene editing in stem cells in a dish in the lab and grown these cells into 3D retinas. This represents very early-stage research where many risks and safety concerns have yet to be addressed but offers a glimpse of what the future may hold.
Conferences like this are extremely important for Fighting Blindness and for our researchers and clinicians. It is a vital opportunity to network and share knowledge with international colleagues and will ensure that we remain at the cutting edge of research to find treatments and cures for vision loss.