Generous gift boosts pregnancy and diabetes eye research

A new research project aims to make it easier for women with diabetes to have sight-saving eye checks during pregnancy.


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New research aiming to help women with diabetes protect their sight during pregnancy has received a major boost from philanthropists Jaqui Maree and George Stamas AM.

Jaqui Maree and George, of JGK Facility Services, have purchased a new AI-assisted portable camera for the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA).

The new equipment was unveiled at CERA’s International Women’s Day celebrations.

The state-of-the-art camera will support an innovative trial providing eye screenings in obstetrics clinics to pregnant women who have pre-existing diabetes.

Led by CERA’s Professor Lyndell Lim and Associate Professor Andrew Symons, the study aims to find new ways to help women with diabetes monitor their eye health for signs of sight threatening eye disease during pregnancy.

All people with diabetes need regular eye checks to monitor for diabetic retinopathy – a disease which causes bleeding in the back of the eye and can lead to serious vision loss if left untreated.

Pregnant women with diabetes are at even greater risk and it’s recommended that they have eye tests every three months.

But previous research by Professor Lim’s team found that many pregnant women with diabetes missed these critical checks because were too busy with other medical appointments.

“Our new research will examine a more streamlined way of providing eye screening to women with pre-existing diabetes during their pregnancy,’’ says Professor Lim.

“We will be trialing a system where women can receive their eye screening at the same time as their obstetrics appointment using a new AI-assisted portable camera.

“Patients will receive an on-the-spot assessment of whether they need referral to an ophthalmologist for urgent care or can continue with in-clinic screening once per trimester.’’

The trial will be conducted at obstetrics clinics at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Mercy Hospital for Women, Monash Medical Centre and Cabrini Maternity. It will compare results of new screening program with the current approach of requiring women to attend separate eye care appointments.

Professor Lim said that without the generosity of Jaqui Maree and George Stamas AM the research would not go ahead.

“I am deeply grateful for the generous contribution of Jaqui Maree and George Stamas to CERA’s research,’’ says Professor Lim.

“Their support will ensure that more women with diabetes experience the precious gift of seeing their new baby’s face.’’

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