Optometry and Vision Sciences - Research Publications

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    Patient experiences and perceived value of genetic testing in inherited retinal diseases: a cross-sectional survey
    Britten-Jones, AC ; Schultz, J ; Mack, HG ; Kearns, LS ; Huq, AJ ; Ruddle, JB ; Mackey, DA ; Hewitt, AW ; Edwards, TL ; Ayton, LN (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2024-03-05)
    This study evaluated patient experiences with genetic testing for inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) and the association between underlying knowledge, testing outcomes, and the perceived value of the results. An online survey was distributed to adults with IRDs and parents/guardians of dependents with IRDs who had had genetic testing. Data included details of genetic testing, pre- and post- test perceptions, Decision Regret Scale, perceived value of results, and knowledge of gene therapy. Of 135 responses (85% from adults with IRDs), genetic testing was primarily conducted at no charge through public hospitals (49%) or in a research setting (30%). Key motivations for genetic testing were to confirm IRD diagnosis and to contribute towards research. Those who had received a genetic diagnosis (odds ratio: 6.71; p < 0.001) and those self-reported to have good knowledge of gene therapy (odds ratio: 2.69; p = 0.018) were more likely to have gained confidence in managing their clinical care. For over 80% of respondents, knowing the causative gene empowered them to learn more about their IRD and explore opportunities regarding clinical trials. Key genetic counselling information needs include resources for family communications, structured information provision, and ongoing genetic support, particularly in the context of emerging ocular therapies, to enhance consistency in information uptake.
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    A multinational survey of potential participant perspectives on ocular gene therapy
    Britten-Jones, AC ; McGuinness, MB ; Chen, FK ; Grigg, JR ; Mack, HG ; Ayton, LN (SPRINGERNATURE, 2024-05)
    Amidst rapid advancements in ocular gene therapy, understanding patient perspectives is crucial for shaping future treatment choices and research directions. This international cross-sectional survey evaluated knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions of ocular genetic therapies among potential recipients with inherited retinal diseases (IRDs). Survey instruments included the Attitudes to Gene Therapy-Eye (AGT-Eye), EQ-5D-5L, National Eye Institute Visual Functioning Questionnaire (NEI-VFQ-25), and Patient Attitudes to Clinical Trials (PACT-22) instruments. This study included 496 participant responses (89% adults with IRDs; 11% parents/guardians/carers) from 35 countries, with most from the United States of America (USA; 69%) and the United Kingdom (11%). Most participants (90%) indicated they would likely accept gene therapy if it was available, despite only 45% agreeing that they had good knowledge of gene therapy. The main sources of information were research registries (60% of participants) and the internet (61%). Compared to data from our recently published Australian national survey of people with IRDs (n = 694), USA respondents had higher knowledge of gene therapy outcomes, and Australian respondents indicated a higher perceived value of gene therapy treatments. Addressing knowledge gaps regarding outcomes and financial implications will be central to ensuring informed consent, promoting shared decision-making, and the eventual clinical adoption of genetic therapies.
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    Exploring the support needs of Australian parents of young children with Usher syndrome: a qualitative thematic analysis
    Johansen, L ; O'Hare, F ; Shepard, ER ; Ayton, LN ; Pelenstov, LJ ; Kearns, LS ; Galvin, KL (BMC, 2024-03-21)
    BACKGROUND: Advancements in genetic testing have led to Usher syndrome now being diagnosed at a much earlier age than in the past, enabling the provision of early intervention and support to children and families. Despite these developments, anecdotal reports suggest there are substantial gaps in the services and supports provided to parents of children with Usher syndrome. The current study investigated the support needs of parents of children with Usher syndrome Type 1 when their child was aged 0 to 5 years. METHOD: Purposive sampling was used, and six semi-structured interviews were conducted with Australian parents of children with Usher syndrome, Type 1. Data was analysed using modified reflexive thematic analysis. RESULTS: Four key themes were identified as being central to the support needs of parents of children with Usher syndrome aged 0 to 5 years. (1) Social Needs referred to parents' need for various sources of social support, (2) Informational Needs described the lack of information parents received regarding Usher syndrome from treating professionals, (3) Practical Needs included supports needed to assist parents in managing the day-to-day tasks of caring for a child with a disability, and (4) Emotional Needs represented the emotional support (both formal and informal) that parents needed to be a positive support to their child. CONCLUSIONS: Findings provide rich information for relevant support groups, policy makers, individual healthcare professionals, and professional governing bodies regarding the education of stakeholders and the development and implementation of best-practice treatment guidelines.
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    A global survey of visual symptoms in female carriers of choroideremia and X-linked retinitis pigmentosa
    Gocuk, SA ; Edwards, TL ; Jolly, JK ; Ayton, LN (Elsevier BV, 2024-04)
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    Altered Outer Retinal Structure, Electrophysiology and Visual Perception in Parkinson's Disease
    Tran, KKN ; Lee, PY ; Finkelstein, DI ; McKendrick, AM ; Nguyen, BN ; Bui, BV ; Nguyen, CTO (IOS PRESS, 2024)
    BACKGROUND: Visual biomarkers of Parkinson's disease (PD) are attractive as the retina is an outpouching of the brain. Although inner retinal neurodegeneration in PD is well-established this has overlap with other neurodegenerative diseases and thus outer retinal (photoreceptor) measures warrant further investigation. OBJECTIVE: To examine in a cross-sectional study whether clinically implementable measures targeting outer retinal function and structure can differentiate PD from healthy ageing and whether these are sensitive to intraday levodopa (L-DOPA) dosing. METHODS: Centre-surround perceptual contrast suppression, macular visual field sensitivity, colour discrimination, light-adapted electroretinography and optical coherence tomography (OCT) were tested in PD participants (n = 16) and controls (n = 21). Electroretinography and OCT were conducted before and after midday L-DOPA in PD participants, or repeated after ∼2 hours in controls. RESULTS: PD participants had decreased center-surround contrast suppression (p < 0.01), reduced macular visual field sensitivity (p < 0.05), color vision impairment (p < 0.01) photoreceptor dysfunction (a-wave, p < 0.01) and photoreceptor neurodegeneration (outer nuclear layer thinning, p < 0.05), relative to controls. Effect size comparison between inner and outer retinal parameters showed that photoreceptor metrics were similarly robust in differentiating the PD group from age-matched controls as inner retinal changes. Electroretinography and OCT were unaffected by L-DOPA treatment or time. CONCLUSIONS: We show that outer retinal outcomes of photoreceptoral dysfunction (decreased cone function and impaired color vision) and degeneration (i.e., outer nuclear layer thinning) were equivalent to inner retinal metrics at differentiating PD from healthy age-matched adults. These findings suggest outer retinal metrics may serve as useful biomarkers for PD.
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    Understanding how ageing impacts ganglion cell susceptibility to injury in glaucoma
    van Koeverden, AK ; Afiat, BC ; Nguyen, CTO ; Bui, B ; Lee, PY (TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2024-02-17)
    Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness worldwide, with a marked increase in prevalence with advancing age. Due to the multifactorial nature of glaucoma pathogenesis, dissecting how ageing impacts upon glaucoma risk requires analysis and synthesis of evidence from a vast literature. While there is a wealth of human clinical studies examining glaucoma pathogenesis and why older patients have increased risk, many aspects of the disease such as adaptations of retinal ganglion cells to stress, autophagy and the role of glial cells in glaucoma, require the use of animal models to study the complex cellular processes and interactions. Additionally, the accelerated nature of ageing in rodents facilitates the longitudinal study of changes that would not be feasible in human clinical studies. This review article examines evidence derived predominantly from rodent models on how the ageing process impacts upon various aspects of glaucoma pathology from the retinal ganglion cells themselves, to supporting cells and tissues such as glial cells, connective tissue and vasculature, in addition to oxidative stress and autophagy. An improved understanding of how ageing modifies these factors may lead to the development of different therapeutic strategies that target specific risk factors or processes involved in glaucoma.
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    AAV capsid bioengineering in primary human retina models
    Westhaus, A ; Eamegdool, SS ; Fernando, M ; Fuller-Carter, P ; Brunet, AA ; Miller, AL ; Rashwan, R ; Knight, M ; Daniszewski, M ; Lidgerwood, GE ; Pebay, A ; Hewitt, A ; Santilli, G ; Thrasher, AJ ; Carvalho, LS ; Gonzalez-Cordero, A ; Jamieson, RV ; Lisowski, L (NATURE PORTFOLIO, 2023-12-11)
    Adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector-mediated retinal gene therapy is an active field of both pre-clinical as well as clinical research. As with other gene therapy clinical targets, novel bioengineered AAV variants developed by directed evolution or rational design to possess unique desirable properties, are entering retinal gene therapy translational programs. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that predictive preclinical models are required to develop and functionally validate these novel AAVs prior to clinical studies. To investigate if, and to what extent, primary retinal explant culture could be used for AAV capsid development, this study performed a large high-throughput screen of 51 existing AAV capsids in primary human retina explants and other models of the human retina. Furthermore, we applied transgene expression-based directed evolution to develop novel capsids for more efficient transduction of primary human retina cells and compared the top variants to the strongest existing benchmarks identified in the screening described above. A direct side-by-side comparison of the newly developed capsids in four different in vitro and ex vivo model systems of the human retina allowed us to identify novel AAV variants capable of high transgene expression in primary human retina cells.
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    Changes to the shape, orientation and packing of red cells as a function of retinal capillary size.
    Bedggood, P ; Ding, Y ; Metha, A (Optica Publishing Group, 2024-02-01)
    The free diameter of a red blood cell exceeds the lumen diameter of capillaries in the central nervous system, requiring significant deformation of cells. However the deformations undertaken in vivo are not well established due to the difficulty in observing cellular capillary flow in living human tissue. Here, we used high resolution adaptive optics imaging to non-invasively track 17,842 red blood cells in transit through 121 unique capillary segments of diameter 8 µm or less in the retina of 3 healthy human subjects. Within each vessel, a 2D en face profile was generated for the "average cell", whose shape was then inferred in 3D based on the key assumption of a circular capillary cross-section. From this we estimated the average volume, surface area, orientation, and separation between red cells within each capillary tube. Our results showed a network filtration effect, whereby narrower vessels were more likely to contain smaller cells (defined by surface area, which is thought not to vary during a cell's passage through the vascular system). A bivariate linear model showed that for larger cells in narrower vessels: cells re-orient themselves to align with the flow axis, their shape becomes more elongated, there are longer gaps between successive cells, and remarkably, that cell volume is less which implies the ejection of water from cells to facilitate capillary transit. Taken together, these findings suggest that red cells pass through retinal capillaries with some reluctance. A biphasic distribution for cell orientation and separation was evident, indicating a "tipping point" for vessels narrower than approx. 5 µm. This corresponds closely to the typical capillary lumen diameter, and may maximize sensitivity of cellular flow to small changes in diameter. We suggest that the minimization of unnecessary oxygen exchange, and hence of damage via reactive oxygen pathways, may have provided evolutionary pressure to ensure that capillary lumens are generally narrower than red blood cells.
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    Validation of an automated method for studying retinal capillary blood flow.
    Neriyanuri, S ; Bedggood, P ; Symons, RCA ; Metha, AB (Optica Publishing Group, 2024-02-01)
    Two major approaches for tracking cellular motion across a range of biological tissues are the manual labelling of cells, and automated analysis of spatiotemporal information represented in a kymograph. Here we compare these two approaches for the measurement of retinal capillary flow, a particularly noisy application due to the low intrinsic contrast of single red blood cells (erythrocytes). Image data were obtained using a flood-illuminated adaptive optics ophthalmoscope at 750 nm, allowing the acquisition of flow information over several cardiac cycles which provided key information in evaluating tracking accuracy. Our results show that in addition to being much faster, the automated method is more accurate in the face of rapid flow and reduced image contrast. This study represents the first validation of commonly used kymograph approaches to capillary flow analysis.
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    Establishing the Calibration Curve of a Compressive Ophthalmodynamometry Device
    Kaplan, MA ; Bui, B ; Ayton, LN ; Bao, N ; Grayden, DB ; John, S (IEEE, 2023)
    The relationship between externally applied force and intraocular pressure was determined using an ex-vivo porcine eye model (N=9). Eyes were indented through the sclera with a convex ophthalmodynamometry head (ODM). Intraocular pressure and ophthalmodynamometric force were simultaneously recorded to establish a calibration curve of this indenter head. A calibration coefficient of 0.140 ± 0.009 mmHg/mN was established and was shown to be highly linear (r = 0.998 ± 0.002). Repeat application of ODM resulted in a 0.010 ± 0.002 mmHg/mN increase to the calibration coefficient.Clinical Relevance- ODM has been highlighted as a potential method of non-invasively estimating intracranial pressure. This study provides relevant data for the practical performance of ODM with similar compressive devices.