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Macular Research

Affiliated with the University of MelbourneUniversity of Melbourne Logo

Lead Researcher: Professor Robyn Guymer

CERA’s Macular Research aims to improve understanding of the disease processes and treatment options for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). In particular, our research focuses on determining risk factors for progression from early AMD to advanced, the genetics of AMD; environmental associations with AMD, and biomarkers of AMD. The unit also carries out a wide range of clinical trials into new treatments for retinal disease, and is the lead clinical research partner in the Bionic Vision Australia project.

Current Research

Genetics of AMD

CERA’s Macular Research has a strong interest and track history in genetic studies related to AMD. Our unit is interested in which genes predispose people to diseases such as AMD, and whether genetic analysis can predict which patients will respond best to particular treatments. The current studies into AMD genetics include:

  1. Genetic analysis in age-related macular degeneration, including genetic associations with AMD and the risk of progression to advanced disease.
  2. The influence of genes on treatment outcomes for neovascular AMD
  3. The interaction between genetics and environment in AMD, including in depth analysis of the Health 2000 cohort

Bionic Eye project

CERA collaborates with the Bionics Institute, NICTA (National Information Communications Technology Australia) and the Universities of Melbourne and New South Wales in the Bionic Vision Australia (BVA) consortium. The aim of BVA is to develop an advanced bionic eye prototype to restore functional vision to people who have become blind from retinal degenerations such as retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and AMD. Macular Research is responsible for the surgical and clinical aspects of this project, and also works closely with the BVA partners on preclinical and stimulation strategy research.  For more information about the Bionic Eye project, please see www.bionicvision.org.au, or contact cera-info@unimelb.edu.au.

Laser intervention in Early Age-related macular Degeneration (LEAD) Trial

CERA is the coordinating centre and lead investigative site for a world first, multi-centered, randomised, controlled trial of nanosecond laser intervention in high-risk, early AMD. The study is an investigator-initiated study and is being conducted in collaboration with Ellex R&D Pty Ltd, an Australian manufacturer of laser systems for eye surgery. The laser has been specially developed to treat retinal diseases including early AMD.

Biomarkers of AMD

CERA’s Macular Research is internationally recognised as a leader in the fields of AMD biomarker and functional test development. The aim of this research is to develop predictive tests for AMD based on biomarkers and/or retinal function. These tests may then be used to monitor progression over time.

  1. Development of functional predictive tests of AMD, by investigating how the retina functions in early AMD. These functional tests will be used to assess the risk of progression to end stage AMD. These tests are also vital when assessing the efficacy of interventions aimed at slowing progression. The end result will be a suite of tests that can both predict and monitor progression of disease. These tests could be packaged into a suite of standard tools for use in AMD management.
  2. Investigation of inflammatory biomarkers in AMD, through the collection of plasma, serum and urine from AMD patients and control participants. This study aims to identify differences in proteins that might be used to monitor disease progression and efficacy of new AMD treatments.

Clinical trials

CERA’s Macular Research is involved in a number of clinical trials for pharmaceutical companies, having existing personnel, staff experience and state of the art equipment. Examples of the clinical trials that we are involved in include:

  1. The age-related maculopathy statin study: a randomised clinical trial of simvastatin or placebo in high risk cases of early AMD to determine whether statin (cholesterol-lowering drugs) treatment can slow the progression of AMD.
  2. Retinal regeneration laser treatment in early age-related maculopathy – study to investigate the use of nanolaser technology as a prophylactic treatment for early AMD. The Ellex 2RT (retinal regeneration) laser delivers nanosecond duration pulses, which unlike all previous retinal lasers, cause no damage to the photoreceptors in the retina. This is the first clinical trial of this treatment in high-risk, early AMD eyes, using our visual functional testing suite as an outcome measure.
  3. CERA’s Macular Research is an investigation site for a number of large multicentre stage 1,2 and 3 randomised clinical trials for the treatment of both wet and dry AMD.
  4. Macular telangiectasia (MacTel) consortium: a study to develop understanding of the natural history of type 2 macular telangiectasis.