Public Release: 

Award winning eye-heart discovery

Research Australia

Routine visits to an Optometrist may soon provide us with diagnosis of vision complications and screening for cardiovascular disease.

Associate Professor Tien Wong of the Centre for Eye Research Australia is currently establishing a Retinal Vascular Imaging Centre (RetVIC) in Melbourne, Australia. The Centre collaborates with several teams, including the University of Melbourne's departments of Ophthalmology and Computer Science and Software Engineering.

Professor Wong is the winner of the Prestigious Australian University of Melbourne's Woodward Medal for Science and Technology.

"The idea that the eye is a window to the human body and can predict other areas of human health has been around for more than a century," he says.

"But our team has demonstrated this prediction in precise and quantitative terms, which is important if there is to be clinical application".

"It is an ambitious goal but our ultimate aim is to develop a web-based imaging system from which optometrists and ophthalmologists can upload images which will then be assessed for retinal markers of future cardiovascular disease," Associate Professor Wong says.

Development of this retinal imaging system follows on from Associate Professor Wong's research which is the first in the world to demonstrate that subtle damage to blood vessels in the retina can predict cardiovascular disease.

Associate Professor Wong's research, using data collected from three large clinical trials involving over 20,000 people, demonstrates the link between different changes in retinal blood vessels and different types of cardiovascular disease.

Professor Wong has authored more than 80 articles on this subject in the past three years, published in prestigious journals including the New England Journal of Medicine, the Lancet, the Journal of American Medical Association and the British Medical Journal.

Associate Wong has received a $2 million Science, Technology and Innovation Grant from the Victorian State Government to further develop the retinal imaging technology.

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The Retinal Vascular Imaging Centre (RetVIC) is a collaboration between Centre for Eye Research Australia, The University of Melbourne, Baker Medical Research Institute, Diabetes Australia, The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, St Vincent's Hospital, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Centre for Vision Research at the University of Sydney, International Diabetes Institute, Pfizer Australia, National Stroke Research Institute and Monash University. Additional support is provided by: National Heart Foundation of Australia, National Stroke Foundation, Save Sight Institute at the University of Sydney and BSC Electronics.

FOR FURTHER MEDIA INFORMATION CONTACT:
Romy Johnston, Executive Director, Eye Research Australia Foundation
Phone: +61 3 9929 8425 Mobile: + 61 409 810 626
Email: romyj@unimelb.edu.au

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