Friday, December 10, 2010

Focus on the future of ophthalmology in ancient Japan

Sean Henahan has just returned from Kyoto where more than 500 cornea specialists from throughout Asia and beyond gathered for the 2nd Asia Cornea Society Biennial Scientific Meeting.

Japan's ancient capital, showing its best autumn colour, served as backdrop for the conference, the theme of which was An Enlightening Focus on the Future.

"For 40 years, not much was happening in cornea, there was PK and that was about it. But now it has become one of the most exciting fields in ophthalmology. We are seeing a major paradigm shift over the past few years. The rationale for creating the society was to provide opportunities for networking among the Asian countries and the international societies, and to allow for networking, education and research,"  Donald Tan MD, president of the Asia Cornea Society, told EuroTimes.

The meeting served as an occasion for the announcement of two major initiatives by the Asia Cornea Society. The first of these is the creation of Association of Eye Banks of Asia (AEBA). The concept of this programme is to create standards for the collection, preparation, storage and delivery of donor corneas throughout Asia. The first phase, now under way, involves revamping the Sri Lanka Eye Bank, historically one of the leading centres in Asia.

"Asia has the highest rate of corneal blindness in the world. So we are taking a problem solving approach to this. That is the rationale for the AEBA. The ultimate goal is to create high quality local eye banks that are able to procure local donors and make corneas available locally, and eventually to be able to export any excess tissue."

The second initiative announced at the conference was Asian Cornea Society Infectious Cornea disease Study (ACSICS). The one-year prospective observational study will involve 11 sites in eight countries. These will document the extent and impact of keratitis in the region. Researchers aim to learn more about risk factors, aetiology, regional characteristics, antibiotic resistance etc. This will ultimately allow for the creation of meaningful practice guidelines, Dr Tan said.

The four-day meeting served up everything from essential basic research to the latest therapeutic strategies for the full spectrum of corneal disease.

Cornea specialists were probably the first to use stem cells therapeutically, by way of cell transplantation for ocular surface reconstruction. There have been considerable advances in that field, with major contributions from Japanese investigators. Attendees heard about current efforts to use cell sheet transplantation. In addition to cultivated limbal epithelial transplantation, researchers are now using cultivated oral mucosal epithelial cells, autologous nasal mucosal cells, and even ear perichondrium cells for ocular surface reconstruction.

Keratoconus continues to be a bread and butter issue for cornea specialists. Joseph Colin MD, Bordeaux, France, presented the latest findings on treating the disease with Intacs, and collagen cross-linking, alone and in combination.

Contact lens related ocular infection also continues to be a problem. Prof John Dart of Moorfields Eye Hospital in London presented a  large-scale epidemiological study of contact lens related keratitis. The largest study of its kind, it details differences in rates of Acanthamoeba keratitis, which is almost unheard of in continental Europe, but is an ongoing problem in England. More than 90 per cent of cases of contact lens related keratitis could be prevented with proper patient education and hygiene, he reported.

Conference delegates also got an update on corneal and lenticular refractive surgery. Hiroko Bissen-Miyajima MD, Tokyo, Japan discussed LASIK enhancement in patients who have received multifocal IOLs. She also presented information on new IOLs available for microincision cataract surgery.

The genetics of corneal dystrophies was another topic of interest, with considerable advances in screening for these disorders. Akira Murakami MD described early work using a hydrogel contact lens as a device for single gene transfer. He reported early success in animal work delivering a gene via a special contact lens a single gene disease. This approach also has broader potential for treatment of various corneal disorders, he noted.

Look for comprehensive coverage from the conference in upcoming issues of EuroTimes.

EuroTimes wins design award

Paddy Dunne, senior designer, EuroTimes, has won the Designer of the Year (Business Magazines) award 2010.

The judges of the award presented by Magazines Ireland said they saw evidence of major design innovation and excellence with a refreshing new look for the magazine following its redesign earlier this year.

"I believe the rebranded issue of EuroTimes vastly improves on the previous template," said Paddy in his submission for the award.

"Reader feedback on our new look has been very positive. With every issue since June 2010, we strive to make further improvements giving our readers a much more satisfying reading experience. This rebrand has given our product a massive reinvigoration and it is for these reasons that I believe EuroTimes eligible for Best Designer in B2B."

After accepting his award Paddy also paid tribute to EuroTimes assistant designer Janice Robb who played a major factor in the 2010 redesign.

Colin Kerr, executive editor, EuroTimes, said that winning the award was a major recognition for the magazine.

"This was very much a team effort and I would also like to thank the editorial and marketing team at EuroTimes and our international Editorial Board headed by Dr Emanuel Rosen, chairman of the ESCRS Publications Committee," he said.

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