Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) - Research Publications

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    Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies novel loci and improves disease prediction of age-related macular degeneration.
    He, W ; Han, X ; Ong, J-S ; Wu, Y ; Hewitt, AW ; Mackey, DA ; Gharahkhani, P ; MacGregor, S (Elsevier BV, 2023-08-25)
    OBJECTIVE OR PURPOSE: To identify novel Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) loci and establish polygenic prediction model DESIGN: Genome-wide association study (GWAS) and polygenic risk score (PRS). SUBJECTS, PARTICIPANTS, AND/OR CONTROLS: Total of 64,885 European AMD cases and 568,740 controls (with overlapped samples) in UKB Biobank, GERA, International AMD consortium, FinnGen, published early-AMD GWAS in meta-analysis. 733 AMD European cases and 20,487 controls from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). Non-Europeans from UK Biobank and GERA METHODS, INTERVENTION, OR TESTING: We conducted a multi-trait meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies (GWASs) comprising 64,885 AMD cases and 568,740 controls. We employed a multi-trait approach that dealt with sample overlap. We constructed a PRS for AMD based on these novel loci and previously reported AMD loci. We applied the PRS to non-overlapping data from the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (733 AMD cases and 20,487 controls). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: We identified several genetic SNPs associated with AMD and established PRS for AMD-risk prediction RESULTS: We identified 63 AMD risk loci alongside the well-established AMD loci CFH and ARMS2, including 9 loci that were not reported in previous GWAS, some of which have previously been linked to other eye diseases such as glaucoma (e.g. HIC1). We constructed a PRS for AMD based on these unreported loci and previously reported AMD loci. We applied the PRS to non-overlapping data from the CLSA (733 AMD cases and 20,487 controls). The PRS was constructed using a new PRS method PRS-CS and significantly improved the prediction accuracy of AMD risk compared to PRS from previously published datasets. We further showed that even people who carry all the well-known AMD risk alleles at CFH/ARMS2 vary considerably in their AMD risk (ranging from close to zero in low PRS individuals to >50% in high PRS individuals). Although our PRS is derived in individuals of European ancestry, the PRS shows potential for predicting risk in people of East Asian, South Asian, and Latino ancestry. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings improve the knowledge of the genetic architecture of AMD and help achieve better accuracy in AMD prediction.
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    RNA-targeting strategies as a platform for ocular gene therapy
    Kumar, S ; Fry, LE ; Wang, J-H ; Martin, KR ; Hewitt, AW ; Chen, FK ; Liu, G-S (Elsevier, 2023-01)
    Genetic medicine is offering hope as new therapies are emerging for many previously untreatable diseases. The eye is at the forefront of these advances, as exemplified by the approval of Luxturna® by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) in 2017 for the treatment of one form of Leber Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), an inherited blindness. Luxturna® was also the first in vivo human gene therapy to gain US FDA approval. Numerous gene therapy clinical trials are ongoing for other eye diseases, and novel delivery systems, discovery of new drug targets and emerging technologies are currently driving the field forward. Targeting RNA, in particular, is an attractive therapeutic strategy for genetic disease that may have safety advantages over alternative approaches by avoiding permanent changes in the genome. In this regard, antisense oligonucleotides (ASO) and RNA interference (RNAi) are the currently popular strategies for developing RNA-targeted therapeutics. Enthusiasm has been further fuelled by the emergence of clustered regularly interspersed short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-CRISPR associated (Cas) systems that allow targeted manipulation of nucleic acids. RNA-targeting CRISPR-Cas systems now provide a novel way to develop RNA-targeted therapeutics and may provide superior efficiency and specificity to existing technologies. In addition, RNA base editing technologies using CRISPR-Cas and other modalities also enable precise alteration of single nucleotides. In this review, we showcase advances made by RNA-targeting systems for ocular disease, discuss applications of ASO and RNAi technologies, highlight emerging CRISPR-Cas systems and consider the implications of RNA-targeting therapeutics in the development of future drugs to treat eye disease.
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    Use of antihypertensive medications and the risk of glaucoma onset: Findings from the 45 and Up Study
    Yuan, Y ; Wang, W ; Shang, X ; Xiong, R ; Ha, J ; Zhang, L ; Zhu, Z ; He, M (WILEY, 2022-05-31)
    BACKGROUND: Abnormal blood pressure is a potential risk factor for glaucoma. However, the role of antihypertensive medications on glaucoma pathogenesis is controversial. This study aims to investigate the association between the use of antihypertensive medications and glaucoma onset. METHODS: This nested case-control study, based on a large-scale longitudinal cohort in Australia, retrieved participants' claims records on drugs and Medicare services from national health databases. Participants with three or more claim records of anti-glaucoma medications from 2009 to 2016 were classified as glaucoma patients; those with none were classified as controls. Claim records of antihypertensive medications were identified within the 5 years before glaucoma onset and contemporary periods in matched controls without glaucoma. The association between the use of antihypertensive medications and glaucoma onset was assessed by multivariable logistic regression models. RESULTS: A total of 6748 cases and 13 496 controls were analysed. Compared with controls, the proportion of users of antihypertensive medications was slightly higher in glaucoma patients (46.9% vs. 46.0%, p > 0.05). After adjustments for demographics, health-related factors and medical history, the association between the use of antihypertensive medications and glaucoma onset was nonsignificant (OR 0.95, 95% CI = 0.89-1.02). As for specific subtypes, only beta-blocking agents (BBA) (OR 0.82, 95% CI = 0.75-0.90) and diuretics (OR 0.85, 95% CI = 0.77-0.95) were significantly associated with reduced risks of glaucoma onset. CONCLUSIONS: This study indicated that the use of antihypertensive medications was not associated with glaucoma onset. Decreased risks of glaucoma onset in users of BBA and diuretics require further validation.
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    Diagnostic yield of candidate genes in an Australian corneal dystrophy cohort
    Souzeau, E ; Siggs, OM ; Mullany, S ; Schmidt, JM ; Hassall, MM ; Dubowsky, A ; Chappell, A ; Breen, J ; Bae, H ; Nicholl, J ; Hadler, J ; Kearns, LS ; Staffieri, SE ; Hewitt, AW ; Mackey, DA ; Gupta, A ; Burdon, KP ; Klebe, S ; Craig, JE ; Mills, RA (WILEY, 2022-08-19)
    Corneal dystrophies describe a clinically and genetically heterogeneous group of inherited disorders. The International Classification of Corneal Dystrophies (IC3D) lists 22 types of corneal dystrophy, 17 of which have been demonstrated to result from pathogenic variants in 19 identified genes. In this study, we investigated the diagnostic yield of genetic testing in a well-characterised cohort of 58 individuals from 44 families with different types of corneal dystrophy. Individuals diagnosed solely with Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy were excluded. Clinical details were obtained from the treating ophthalmologist. Participants and their family members were tested using a gene candidate and exome sequencing approach. We identified a likely molecular diagnosis in 70.5% families (31/44). The detection rate was significantly higher among probands with a family history of corneal dystrophy (15/16, 93.8%) than those without (16/28, 57.1%, p = .015), and among those who had undergone corneal graft surgery (9/9, 100.0%) compared to those who had not (22/35, 62.9%, p = .041). We identified eight novel variants in five genes and identified five families with syndromes associated with corneal dystrophies. Our findings highlight the genetic heterogeneity of corneal dystrophies and the clinical utility of genetic testing in reaching an accurate clinical diagnosis.
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    Sustained and rebound effect of repeated low-level red-light therapy on myopia control: A 2-year post-trial follow-up study
    Xiong, R ; Zhu, Z ; Jiang, Y ; Kong, X ; Zhang, J ; Wang, W ; Kiburg, K ; Yuan, Y ; Chen, Y ; Zhang, S ; Xuan, M ; Zeng, J ; Morgan, IG ; He, M (WILEY, 2022-09-07)
    BACKGROUND: To evaluate the long-term efficacy and safety of continued repeated low-level red-light (RLRL) therapy on myopia control over 2 years, and the potential rebound effect after treatment cessation. METHODS: The Chinese myopic children who originally completed the one-year randomised controlled trial were enrolled. Children continued RLRL-therapy were defined as RLRL-RLRL group, while those who stopped and switched to single-vision spectacle (SVS) in the second year were RLRL-SVS group. Likewise, those who continued to merely wear SVS or received additional RLRL-therapy were SVS-SVS and SVS-RLRL groups, respectively. RLRL-therapy was provided by an at-home desktop light device emitting red-light of 650 nm and was administered for 3 min at a time, twice a day and 5 days per week. Changes in axial length (AL) and cycloplegic spherical equivalence refraction (SER) were measured. RESULTS: Among the 199 children who were eligible, 138 (69.3%) children attended the examination and 114 (57.3%) were analysed (SVS-SVS: n = 41; SVS-RLRL: n = 10; RLRL-SVS: n = 52; RLRL-RLRL: n = 11). The baseline characteristics were balanced among four groups. In the second year, the mean changes in AL were 0.28 ± 0.14 mm, 0.05 ± 0.24 mm, 0.42 ± 0.20 mm and 0.12 ± 0.16 mm in SVS-SVS, SVS-RLRL, RLRL-SVS and RLRL-RLRL group, respectively (p < 0.001). The respective mean SER changes were -0.54 ± 0.39D, -0.09 ± 0.55D, -0.91 ± 0.48D, and -0.20 ± 0.56D (p < 0.001). Over the 2-year period, axial elongation and SER progression were smallest in RLRL-RLRL group (AL: 0.16 ± 0.37 mm; SER: -0.31 ± 0.79D), followed by SVS-RLRL (AL: 0.44 ± 0.37 mm; SER: -0.96 ± 0.70D), RLRL-SVS (AL: 0.50 ± 0.28 mm; SER: -1.07 ± 0.69D) and SVS-SVS group (AL: 0.64 ± 0.29 mm; SER: -1.24 ± 0.63D). No self-reported adverse events, functional or structural damages were noted. CONCLUSIONS: Continued RLRL therapy sustained promising efficacy and safety in slowing myopia progression over 2 years. A modest rebound effect was noted after treatment cessation.
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    Prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in women with pregestational diabetes during pregnancy and the postpartum
    Widyaputri, F ; Rogers, SL ; Khong, EWC ; Nankervis, AJ ; Conn, JJ ; Sasongko, MB ; Shub, A ; Fagan, XJ ; Guest, D ; Symons, RCA ; Lim, LL (WILEY, 2022-09)
    BACKGROUND: Diabetic retinopathy (DR) may be affected by pregnancy. The majority of prevalence data regarding DR in pregnancy predate the advent of contemporary guidelines for diabetes management during pregnancy. This study reports DR prevalence and associated risk factors in women with pregestational diabetes during pregnancy and the postpartum in Australia. METHODS: A total of 172 pregnant women with type 1 (T1DM) or type 2 diabetes diagnosed pre-pregnancy were prospectively recruited from two obstetrics hospitals in Melbourne (November 2017-March 2020). Eye examinations were scheduled in each trimester, at 3-, 6-, and 12-months postpartum. DR severity was graded from two-field fundus photographs by an independent grader utilising the Airlie House Classification. Sight-threatening DR (STDR) was defined as the presence of diabetic macular oedema or proliferative DR. RESULTS: Overall, 146 (84.9%) women had at least one eye examination during pregnancy. The mean age was 33.8 years (range 19-51), median diabetes duration was 7.0 years (IQR 3.0-17.0), 71 women (48.6%) had T1DM. DR and STDR prevalence during pregnancy per 100 eyes was 24.3 (95% CI 19.7-29.6) and 9.0 (95% CI 6.1-12.9); while prevalence in the postpartum was 22.2 (95% CI 16.5-29.3) and 10.0 (95% CI 5.4-17.9), respectively. T1DM, longer diabetes duration, higher HbA1c in early pregnancy, and pre-existing nephropathy were significant risk factors. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of DR in pregnant women was similar to the non-pregnant diabetic population in Australia. One in nine participants had STDR during pregnancy and the postpartum, highlighting the need to optimise DR management guidelines in pregnancy given the significant risk of vision loss.
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    Attitudes Toward Glaucoma Genetic Risk Assessment in Unaffected Individuals
    Hollitt, GL ; Siggs, OM ; Ridge, B ; Keane, MC ; Mackey, DA ; MacGregor, S ; Hewitt, AW ; Craig, JE ; Souzeau, E (ASSOC RESEARCH VISION OPHTHALMOLOGY INC, 2022-10)
    PURPOSE: Integrating polygenic risk scores (PRS) into healthcare has the potential to stratify an individual's risk of glaucoma across a broad population. Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, therefore effective screening for glaucoma endorsed by the population is highly important. This study assessed the attitude of unaffected individuals toward PRS testing for glaucoma, and sought to identify factors associated with interest in testing. METHODS: We surveyed 418 unaffected individuals including 193 with a first-degree relative with glaucoma, 117 who had a recent eye examination, and 108 general members of the community. RESULTS: Overall, 71.3% of the individuals indicated an interest in taking a polygenic risk test for glaucoma. Interest was more likely in those who believed glaucoma to be a severe medical condition (odds ratio [OR] = 14.58, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.15-185.50, P = 0.039), those concerned about developing glaucoma (OR = 4.37, 95% CI = 2.32-8.25, P < 0.001), those with an intention to take appropriate measures regarding eye health (OR = 2.39, 95% CI = 1.16-4.95, P = 0.019), and those preferring to know if considered to be at-risk or not (OR = 4.52, 95% CI = 2.32-8.83, P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Our results show strong interest in genetic risk assessment for glaucoma among unaffected individuals in Australia. TRANSLATIONAL RELEVANCE: These findings represent a valuable assessment of interest in glaucoma polygenic risk testing among potential target populations, which will be integral to the implementation and uptake of novel PRS-based tests into clinical practice.
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    Stimulating Mitochondrial Biogenesis with Deoxyribonucleosides Increases Functional Capacity in ECHS1-Deficient Cells
    Burgin, HJ ; Crameri, JJ ; Stojanovski, D ; Sanchez, MIGL ; Ziemann, M ; McKenzie, M (MDPI, 2022-10-01)
    The lack of effective treatments for mitochondrial disease has seen the development of new approaches, including those that stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis to boost ATP production. Here, we examined the effects of deoxyribonucleosides (dNs) on mitochondrial biogenesis and function in Short chain enoyl-CoA hydratase 1 (ECHS1) 'knockout' (KO) cells, which exhibit combined defects in both oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) and mitochondrial fatty acid β-oxidation (FAO). DNs treatment increased mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number and the expression of mtDNA-encoded transcripts in both CONTROL (CON) and ECHS1 KO cells. DNs treatment also altered global nuclear gene expression, with key gene sets including 'respiratory electron transport' and 'formation of ATP by chemiosmotic coupling' increased in both CON and ECHS1 KO cells. Genes involved in OXPHOS complex I biogenesis were also upregulated in both CON and ECHS1 KO cells following dNs treatment, with a corresponding increase in the steady-state levels of holocomplex I in ECHS1 KO cells. Steady-state levels of OXPHOS complex V, and the CIII2/CIV and CI/CIII2/CIV supercomplexes, were also increased by dNs treatment in ECHS1 KO cells. Importantly, treatment with dNs increased both basal and maximal mitochondrial oxygen consumption in ECHS1 KO cells when metabolizing either glucose or the fatty acid palmitoyl-L-carnitine. These findings highlight the ability of dNs to improve overall mitochondrial respiratory function, via the stimulation mitochondrial biogenesis, in the face of combined defects in OXPHOS and FAO due to ECHS1 deficiency.
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    Fundoscopy use in neurology departments and the utility of smartphone photography: a prospective prevalence and crossover diagnostic accuracy study amongst neurology inpatients
    He, G ; Dunn, HP ; Ahmad, KE ; Watson, E ; Henderson, A ; Tynan, D ; Leaney, J ; White, AJ ; Hewitt, AW ; Fraser, CL (WILEY, 2022-05-31)
    BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Although fundoscopy is a crucial part of the neurological examination, it is challenging, under-utilized and unreliably performed. The aim was to determine the prevalence of fundus pathology amongst neurology inpatients and the diagnostic accuracy of current fundoscopy practice compared with systematic screening with smartphone fundoscopy (SF) and portable non-mydriatic fundus photography (NMFP). METHODS: This was a prospective cross-sectional surveillance and diagnostic accuracy study on adult patients admitted under neurology in an Australian hospital. Inpatients were randomized to initial NMFP (RetinaVue 100, Welch Allyn) or SF (D-EYE) followed by a crossover to the alternative modality. Images were graded by neurology doctors, using telemedicine consensus neuro-ophthalmology NMFP grading as the reference standard. Feasibility parameters included ease, comfort and speed. RESULTS: Of 79 enrolled patients, 14.1% had neurologically relevant pathology (seven, disc pallor; one, hypertensive retinopathy; three, disc swelling). The neurology team performed direct ophthalmoscopy in 6.6% of cases and missed all abnormalities. SF had a sensitivity of 30%-40% compared with NMFP (45.5%); however, it had a lower rate of screening failure (1% vs. 13%, p < 0.001), a shorter examination time (1.10 vs. 2.25 min, p < 0.001) and a slightly higher patient comfort rating (9.2 vs. 8/10, p < 0.001). CONCLUSION: Our study demonstrates a clinically significant prevalence of fundus pathology amongst neurology inpatients which was missed by current fundoscopy practices. Portable NMFP screening appears more accurate than SF, whilst both are diagnostically superior to routine fundoscopic practice, feasible and well tolerated by patients.
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    Retinal age gap as a predictive biomarker of stroke risk
    Zhu, Z ; Hu, W ; Chen, R ; Xiong, R ; Wang, W ; Shang, X ; Chen, Y ; Kiburg, K ; Shi, D ; He, S ; Huang, Y ; Zhang, X ; Tang, S ; Zeng, J ; Yu, H ; Yang, X ; He, M (BMC, 2022-11-30)
    BACKGROUND: The aim of this study is to investigate the association of retinal age gap with the risk of incident stroke and its predictive value for incident stroke. METHODS: A total of 80,169 fundus images from 46,969 participants in the UK Biobank cohort met the image quality standard. A deep learning model was constructed based on 19,200 fundus images of 11,052 disease-free participants at baseline for age prediction. Retinal age gap (retinal age predicted based on the fundus image minus chronological age) was generated for the remaining 35,917 participants. Stroke events were determined by data linkage to hospital records on admissions and diagnoses, and national death registers, whichever occurred earliest. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to estimate the effect of retinal age gap on risk of stroke. Logistic regression models were used to estimate the predictive value of retinal age and well-established risk factors in 10-year stroke risk. RESULTS: A total of 35,304 participants without history of stroke at baseline were included. During a median follow-up of 5.83 years, 282 (0.80%) participants had stroke events. In the fully adjusted model, each one-year increase in the retinal age gap was associated with a 4% increase in the risk of stroke (hazard ratio [HR] = 1.04, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.00-1.08, P = 0.029). Compared to participants with retinal age gap in the first quintile, participants with retinal age gap in the fifth quintile had significantly higher risks of stroke events (HR = 2.37, 95% CI: 1.37-4.10, P = 0.002). The predictive capability of retinal age alone was comparable to the well-established risk factor-based model (AUC=0.676 vs AUC=0.661, p=0.511). CONCLUSIONS: We found that retinal age gap was significantly associated with incident stroke, implying the potential of retinal age gap as a predictive biomarker of stroke risk.