Eye health was the theme of a recent public lecture series featuring Auckland Medical Research Foundation (AMRF)-funded researchers from The University of Auckland.
Dr Julie Lim, a research fellow in the Molecular Vision Lab, presented her work into delaying the onset of age-related cataracts.
“We know we get age-related cataracts because with time, the lens becomes depleted of antioxidants which normally work to protect the lens from oxidative damage caused by reactive oxygen species. Our lab is looking at ways we can enhance the natural anti-oxidant defense mechanisms of the lens to protect it from damage and cataract formation.”
While a lot more research is required, Dr Lim says she hopes that one day an eye drop will be developed to help protect the lens from oxidative damage.
Understanding how the lens works to improve the health of our eyes has been a passion of Dr Lim’s since she qualified in 2004, she says, adding she has benefitted from several AMRF grants since 2009. “Without the AMRF I would not be able to do this research at all. I have done all of my training here. I didn’t go overseas because the funding allowed me to stay in Auckland.”
Other speakers at the AMRF eye research lecture included Professor Trevor Sherwin from the Department of Ophthalmology, who discussed his work into stem cells as a means of preventing eye disease, and optometrist and AMRF Doctoral Scholar Joyce Mathan, who focused on her research into keratoconus in children with Down syndrome.
Sue Brewster, AMRF executive director, says the foundation sees eye health as an important area to support. “Cataracts affect so many people, so the funding of this type of research has the potential to improve the quality of life for hundreds and thousands of people. We try to take a long-term view and support researchers for as long as possible, but there are always far more applications for funding than we can possibly meet.”