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National recognition for ophthalmic researcher

04/07/2018By Matthew Woodley • Staff Journalist
The head of ophthalmology at Flinders University has received a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) award for his investigation into genetic solutions for glaucoma.

Professor Jamie Craig was named the recipient of the 2017 ‘Top Ranked Program Grant’ at a ceremony in Canberra last week, for research into the blinding disease, which included establishing the Australian and New Zealand Registry of Advanced Glaucoma.

The resource has been critical to both the discovery and translation of glaucoma genetics, as well as assisting patients to receive earlier diagnoses and therefore treatment before they experience vision loss.

According to Craig, information from the registry from advanced glaucoma patients is helping to identify the genes associated with the disease in its many forms.


“This work will directly and indirectly lead to a change in clinical practice, which will result in improved outcomes for patients with or at risk of developing this blinding condition.”
Jamie Craig, Flinders University

“With our research, and applying existing and new treatments, we hope to prevent glaucoma sufferers of all ages from missing out on the opportunity to drive, read and recognise their loved ones,” Craig said.

“We are excited here at Flinders to be involved in a far-reaching opportunity to translate the genetic determinants of glaucoma into better diagnosis and treatment in future.”

The glaucoma program brings together three synergistic themes, which are each at distinct stages of the translational pipeline, and involves other chief investigators Professor David Mackey (University of Western Australia), Associate Professor Stuart Macgregor (the Council of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research) and Associate Professor Alex Hewitt (University of Tasmania).

The same chief investigators are also involved in a concurrent 2017 NHMRC Project Grant that is focused on the translation of glaucoma blindness genes to improve clinical practice.

“This work will directly and indirectly lead to a change in clinical practice, which will result in improved outcomes for patients with or at risk of developing this blinding condition,” Craig said.

“We are currently monitoring approximately 1,500 patients to investigate how genes and eye tests can be used to predict the risk of developing severe glaucoma in people with early signs of the disease. This will ensure that high risk individuals can access treatment early, while those at low risk can be spared unnecessary treatment and seen less often by vision experts.”

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Associate Professor James Bourne from Monash University also received an award for his research into the ways information is processed in specific circuits of the brain, including vision. Bourne discovered a new pathway linking the eye to the brain that is responsible for integrating specific visual information that is critical for behaviours early in life.

According to the NHMRC, Bourne’s findings have seen better-informed care and treatment for those with a brain injury, as well children who show early signs of movement and vision problems.

“I have a deep fascination with how information which processed in specific circuits of the brain plays a role in complex behaviours like vision and speech,” Bourne said.

“I hope to be able to clarify the involvement of these pathways in learning, language or movement disorders, and specifically in childhood blindness.”

IMAGE TOP: Professor Jamie Craig receiving his award from NHMRC chair Bruce Robinson

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