Your impact 2023

Ending invasive eye injections

With your support, Associate Professor Guei-Sheung (Rick) Liu and his team of Genetic Engineering researchers are developing a new gene therapy that they hope will replace multiple invasive eye injections with a simple eye drop.


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Regular eye injections are a fact of life for many Australians living with ‘wet’ age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic eye disease.

But CERA’s Genetic Engineering researchers, led by Associate Professor Guei-Sheung (Rick) Liu, hope to make the need for repeated invasive injections a thing of the past.

The team are developing a new gene therapy in the lab at CERA, which they hope will replace multiple injections with a simple eye drop.

In wet AMD and diabetic retinopathy, abnormal and weak blood vessels grow in the retina at the back of the eye. The blood vessels leak blood and other fluids, causing damage to the retinal tissue that can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Patients are commonly treated with a medication called ‘anti-VEGF’, which is delivered through an injection into the eye every 4-12 weeks. It works by blocking the action of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), stopping the growth of abnormal blood vessels and damage to the eye. In many cases, vision can be improved or even returned to normal.

However, it is not without its downsides. The invasive treatment carries the risk of injury and infection. And the frequent medical appointments required can be inconvenient for patients. It is also costly due to the high price of the drug and the need for repeated doses.

Associate Professor Liu and his team are striving to overcome these barriers by installing an anti-VEGF gene in the back of the eye that can be ‘switched on’ on demand via a self-administered eye drop. Once activated by the eye drop, an anti-VEGF protein would then suppress the signal that triggers the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

According to Associate Professor Liu, if this treatment is successful, it would significantly advance the clinical management of wet AMD and diabetic retinopathy and, potentially, many other eye diseases.

“Our non-invasive, eye drop-based anti-VEGF therapy will make treatment safer, more convenient and easier to sustain, while reducing costs to the patient and healthcare system. It would also make it more accessible, enabling uptake in disadvantaged communities and developing nations,” he says.

The Genetic Engineering lab and Professor Liu’s work has been boosted by your donations in 2023 – and also received much appreciated support from the 2023 Lions Ride for Sight which contributed $75,000 to the research.

“We are incredibly grateful for the philanthropic funding that is providing vital support for this research.”

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