Irish participation at the International Scholars in Retinal Imaging Programme

We were delighted to partner with the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) to provide the opportunity for young eye doctors and medical students based in Ireland to travel to the USA and undertake exciting retinal imaging research over the summer.

The International Scholars in Retinal Imaging program at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) is designed to give promising young clinician scientists a unique experience whereby they acquire specialised knowledge and skills in retinal imaging.

In particular, this program provides exposure to a revolutionising technique called Adaptive Optics (AO). This allows for the non-invasive visualisation of some of the smallest human structures in the living retina such as light sensitive rod and cone photoreceptors. In fact, AO is fast becoming a tool which will play a key role in the diagnosis, management and treatment of eye diseases such as inherited retinal degenerations (IRDs).

Target 5000 Clinical Fellow Dr Niamh Wynne, who is based at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital (RVEEH) Research Foundation in Dublin, spent three months working under the supervision of Prof Joseph Carroll at the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Science’s Advanced Ocular Imaging Program (AOIP) in MCW.

Complimenting her time in Target 5000 clinics whereby she played a key role in the recruitment and clinical assessment of IRD patients, Dr Wynne was trained in the use of use of adaptive optics scanning light ophthalmoscopy (AOSLO). Building on this, she subsequently used a variety of imaging technologies to examine patients with IRDs and gain a greater understanding of these conditions.

In addition, Niamh studied how variation in a gene called tyrosinase can impact the development of the human fovea, an area located in the macula responsible for central vision. Mutations in the tyrosinase gene can also cause a form of albinism. Dr. Wynne will be presenting some of her results at the Retina 2019 Scientific Programme which takes place on Friday, November 15, 2019 at the Davenport Hotel, Dublin 2.

Amy Ward, a medical student at University College Dublin also undertook an internship over the Summer at MCW. Again under the supervision of Prof Carroll, Amy worked on a project examining retinal structure in patients with high myopia and colour blindness (Bornholm Eye Disease).

As the prevalence of myopia is growing worldwide, studies like these can inform as to the mechanisms underlying the development of the disease. Amy will also be presenting her work at Retina 2019 Public Engagement Day.

Adaptive Optics (AO) holds huge potential to increase our understanding of retinal degenerations, how they progress over time and even how individual cells may respond to treatment. This level of imaging is expected to be very important in the characterisation of patients with retinal disease ahead of clinical trials.

As such, it is of great importance to Fighting Blindness to support the development of adaptive optics expertise in Ireland. A critical aspect to this effort is the training of the next generation of clinician scientists so that they may apply it in their future careers here in Ireland.

We would like to thank Prof Carroll and all the staff at MCW for their efforts in establishing this partnership.

Photo:(l – r: Dr Niamh Wynne, Amy Ward, Prof Joseph Carroll)