Science and Research
Ophthalmic neuroscience research
The ophthalmic neuroscience unit is a multidisciplinary team of researchers with expertise in mathematics, engineering, data science, ophthalmology and neuroscience, focused on novel retinal imaging methods.
The retina shares much in common with the brain and retinal changes occur in a range of brain diseases.
By applying hyperspectral imaging to the eye, the group has made discoveries of imaging biomarkers for a number of diseases including Alzheimer’s disease and diabetic retinopathy. Advanced imaging methods are combined with a range of image analysis techniques including deep learning.
The group is committed to translating research findings to the clinic to improve health. Accordingly, in parallel with biomarker discovery and image analysis method development, the team is developing hyperspectral retinal cameras that can be deployed in a range of clinical settings.
Why this research is important
Retinal imaging plays a central role in eye care and advances in imaging technology over the last few decades have transformed the detection of a wide range of eye diseases facilitating sight-saving treatments. Whilst current imaging methods are powerful, further advances are needed.
Our research has played a key role in establishing the potential of retinal imaging in the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, the leading cause of dementia. Established methods to assist with diagnosis, such as positron emission tomography or cerebrospinal fluid tests, are invasive and not widely available.
A simple retinal scan to detect people with the early stages of AD could transform the development and testing of disease-modifying treatments. Furthermore, when disease-modifying treatments become available, this test may serve as a convenient method to identify those people who are set to benefit most from therapy.
Key research questions
- Can hyperspectral retinal imaging be used to detect people who are at risk of Alzheimer’s disease before the onset of dementia?
- What are the earliest features of Alzheimer’s disease that can be detected with retinal imaging and how long before the onset of dementia are they apparent?
- Can hyperspectral retinal imaging be used to monitor disease progression and treatment responses in Alzheimer’s disease?
- Can hyperspectral retinal imaging be used to identify novel features of eye diseases, including predictors of progression?
Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden
Associate Professor Peter van Wijngaarden is an ophthalmologist and medical scientist with research interests in diabetic retinopathy, Alzheimer’s disease and retinal imaging biomarker discovery. He has research experience in retinal vascular biology and central nervous system regeneration.