Predicting the path of age-related macular degeneration
Dr Zhichao Wu’s research aims to identify age-related macular degeneration patients who are most at risk of vision loss, so that specialists can intervene earlier to save sight.
Although one in seven Australians over 50 will develop signs of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), not all are at risk of severe vision loss.
But in the early stages of AMD, it can be difficult for eyecare practitioners to determine who is at most risk so that they can be monitored more carefully. With careful monitoring, early detection can enable treatment to prevent irreversible vision loss.
Three years after diagnosis, most AMD patients with the early signs of the disease will be stable, but about one in four will show signs that the disease is progressing.
Some will have ‘wet’ AMD, where abnormal blood vessels inside the eye leak or bleed. Others will develop late stage ‘dry’ AMD where retinal cells die, leading to irreversible vision loss.
Currently there are effective treatments for wet AMD if it’s picked up early enough, but there are no effective therapies for dry AMD.
Dr Zhichao Wu’s studies aim to identify patients most likely to develop vision-threatening complications, so specialists can intervene earlier to save sight.
His research uses optical coherence tomography (OCT), a powerful imaging technique, and artificial intelligence.
In one study, Dr Wu and colleagues will collect OCT and OCT angiography (OCTA) images to determine the progression of wet AMD. In other studies, they will map the macular function in those with the later stages of dry AMD.
Dr Wu is supported by the BrightFocus Foundation, Perpetual IMPACT Philanthropy Program and the Macular Disease Foundation Australia.