You are on page 1of 10

The Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences has a vigorous research program with particular emphasis on the research

areas of i) the biological foundations of ocular disease; ii) ocular growth and refractive development; and iii) visual neuroscience and visual neurophysiology. The Department offers courses of training by research leading to the degrees of PhD, Master of Optometry or Master of Science, and currently has about 25 students pursuing research higher degrees. In addition affiliated to the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences is the National Vision Research Institute of Australia and Clinical Vision Research Australia, both divisions of the Victorian College of Optometry, and who also provide research training in the Department. The following areas of research and expertise are available in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences for students considering undertaking Bachelor of Science Honours, Postgraduate Diploma in Science, Masters Degree or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) studies.
















DR CAROL LAKKIS The Department of Optometry & Vision Sciences, in conjunction with the Faculty of Science and the Melbourne Scholarships Office, offers generous scholarship support1 and access to research resources. Competitive applicants will be considered for centrally funded scholarships and/or Faculty and Department funded scholarships/stipends. Although candidates cannot be guaranteed a scholarship, if competitive, it is reasonably likely that they will be successful in securing some form of financial support.

Scholarships are predominantly offered for Masters (by Research) and PhD Students. Availability of scholarships for Honours/PgDipSci students is limited.

Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences

The University of Melbourne Tel (03) 8344 7008/7012; Fax (03) 9349 7498

Ocular Growth and Myopia Research Laboratory Professor Neville McBrien and Dr Alex Gentle
The work of the ocular development and myopia research laboratory is aimed at understanding the mechanisms that regulate ocular development and abnormal eye growth particularly with respect to the development of refractive errors with special emphasis on myopia. High degrees of axial myopia are associated with serious pathological changes such that myopia is a leading cause of blindness in developed countries. A number of different approaches are currently being employed in the laboratory to study this sight threatening disease. Metabolic changes underlying scleral pathology in myopia The sclera undergoes major structural and pathological changes, including marked thinning, in highly myopic eyes. Utilising animal models, we have found underlying changes in scleral metabolism in eyes developing axial myopia. These findings clearly demonstrate that the sclera undergoes active tissue remodelling in myopic eye growth. Current work in this area is aimed at determining the biochemical nature of the metabolic changes by examining alterations in scleral DNA, proteoglycan and collagen through radioisotope incorporation. Further work is directed at identifying changes in growth factors as well as collagen degrading enzymes (MMP's) and their inhibitors (TIMP's) using ELISA's and gelatin zymography techniques. Neuropharmacological control of myopia The only drug that has been shown to prevent axial myopia in children is the muscarinic antagonist atropine. Evidence from our own laboratory, as well as others, has found that atropine prevents myopia via a non-accommodative mechanism. More recently we have demonstrated that the selective M1 muscarinic antagonist pirenzepine is effective in preventing myopia in our mammalian animal model of myopia, the tree shrew. Current studies are aimed at determining the mechanism of action of these drugs in preventing abnormal eye growth. In particular we are investigating the role of the cholinergic system in the development of myopia utilising receptor binding techniques, immunocytochemistry and in vitro release studies. We are also examining the effect of muscarinic antagonists on retinal neurotransmitter levels using HPLC. Molecular regulation of eye growth in axial myopia To advance our understanding of why the regulation of ocular growth breaks down in myopia we are investigating changes in ocular growth regulatory mechanisms at the molecular level. In particular we are examining changes in gene expression of growth factors implicated in the control of myopic eye growth (eg. bFGF and TGF) using standard molecular techniques (eg. RT-PCR, Southern Blotting and Hybridisation) To better understand the underlying processes controlling myopia, we are also determining changes at the molecular level of MMPs, TIMP's and muscarinic receptors, using gene sequencing and the highly sensitive technique of realtime PCR. Genetic and environmental influences on myopia development in adulthood It is apparent that both genetic and environmental factors, especially near work, influence the development of myopia. Our laboratory recently conducted a study on clinical microscopists, an occupational group with a high level of near work. Results of the study demonstrated that over 40% of clinical microscopists have an onset of myopia after entry into their occupation, an incidence four times that of the general population. We are presently carrying out a screening programme to investigate genetic traits in families that display a pedigree of myopia to determine genes involved in human myopia. Recent Publications:
McBrien, N.A. and Gentle, A. (2001). The role of visual information in the control of scleral matrix biology in myopia: A review. Current Eye Research. 23, 313-319. Truong, HT, Cottriall, CL, Gentle, A and McBrien NA (2002) Pirenzepine affects scleral metabolic changes in myopia through a non-toxic mechanism. Experimental Eye Research, 74, 103-111.

Vessey, K, Cottriall, C.L. and McBrien, N.A. (2002) Muscarinic Receptor protein expression in the ocular tissues of the chick during normal and myopic eye development. Developmental Brain Research 135, 79-86. Gentle, A and McBrien, N.A. (2002) Retinosclral control of scleral remodelling in refractive development: A role for endogenous FGF-2. Cytokine 18, 344-348. Gentle, A, Liu, Y, Martin, JE, Conti, GL and McBrien, NA (2003) Collagen gene expression and the altered accumulation of scleral collagen during the development of high myopia. The Journal of Biological Chemistry 278, 16587-16594. McBrien, NA and Gentle A. (2003). The role of the sclera in the development and pathological complications of myopia. Progress in Retinal and Eye Research 22, 307-338.

Contact Details: Professor Neville McBrien ph: +61 3 8344 7001 Dr Alex Gentle ph: +61 3 8344 7005

Visual Neuroscience Laboratory Dr Andrew B Metha

The broad aim of the Visual Neurosciences Laboratory is to bridge our everyday perceptual experience of seeing to knowledge of the optical and neural elements comprising the visual system from the tear film to brain. Work in the VNL tackles this fundamental endeavour from three different but complementary angles: 1. electrophysiological investigations of brain cell activity, 2. measurement of visual performance in psychophysical studies, 3. computational modelling of optical and perceptual performance. Current projects available in the Visual Neuroscience Laboratory (among others) Brain wiring: Recent studies have shown that marked plasticity of visually-driven cortical cell tuning can be effected very rapidly by simple strategies such as showing a different scene just prior to recording, or by showing a stimulus in a part of visual space that a cell is not normally responsive to. Thus neurons in the primary visual cortex (V1) display stimulus tuning properties that are not fixed, but dynamically altered in response to the ever- changing incoming visual signal. It is suggested that the above effects come about at least in part by the workings of a series of connections among cortical neurones that run for several millimetres across but within the cortical sheet. The VNL is equipped to perform acute cat electrophysiology experiments in which single cells are recorded while simultaneously exposing that cell to iontophoretically delivered pulses of known neurotransmitter agonists and antagonists. The neurochemical signals that are important for conveying the lateral signal spread among the network of intrinsic connections within V1 can thus be determined. These experiments will allow an understanding of how local excitatory and inhibitory neural circuits serve to dynamically shape individual cell receptive field properties. Complementary psychophysical experiments can also inform us about the spatial extent and other properties of these connections in human observers, while computer-modeling techniques can explore the functional benefits that such a system offers. Performance limitations imposed by ocular optics: The optical properties of the eye are said not to be perfect, but a full characterization of the eyes imperfections (aberrations) has not in general been made. Importantly, neither has the impact of these imperfections on actual visual performance been described it could be that some aberrations can promote rather than detract from visual performance. Two aberrations in particular require intense study, and both theoretical (computer modeling) and psychophysical projects exist to determine: i) the extent to which spherical aberration can be considered an effective means of apodization to ameliorate the spurious high spatial frequencies injected into the retinal image upon defocus, and ii) the extent to which the chromatic aberrations (longitudinal and lateral) can inform the retina about relative sign of retinal defocus (relative myopia or hyperopia).

Recent publications:
Mller, J.R., Metha, A.B., Krauskopf, J., & Lennie, P. (2003). Local Signals from Beyond the Receptive Fields of Striate Cortical Neurons. J Neurophysiol, 90, 882-831. Calford, M.B., Wright, L.L., Metha, A.B., & Taglianetti, V. (2003). Topographic plasticity in primary visual cortex is mediated by local corticocortical connections. Journal of Neuroscience, 23 (16), 6434-6442. Metha, A.B., & Lennie, P. (2001). Transmission of spatial information in S-cone pathways. Vis Neurosci, 18 (6), 961-972. Roorda, A., Metha, A.B., Lennie, P., & Williams, D.R. (2001). Packing arrangement of the three cone classes in primate retina. Vision Reseach, 41 (10-11), 1291-1306.

Contact Details: Dr Andrew Metha Ph: +61 3 8344 7016

Retinal Structure and Function Laboratory Dr Michael Pianta

Retinal Structure and Function The increasing hope of treatment for hereditary retinal degenerations highlights the need to develop objective methods for evaluating therapeutic potential and efficiency. Optical coherence tomography (OCT), a non-invasive imaging technique that provides high-resolution cross-sectional images of the retina in vivo, holds promise in this regard. Likewise, functional measures based on psychophysics and electrophysiology can be used to pinpoint deficits and guide the development of treatment strategies. Non-invasive assessment of retinal structure and function Some information about the relationship between OCT scans and retinal histology has been gained from patients with retinal diseases of known pathology and demonstrations of qualitative resemblance of scans to retinal histologic features. However, quantitative comparisons between OCT scans and histology are rare. Our laboratory is using animal models of retinal disease to develop OCT as a non-invasive technique for making quantitative measurements of retinal structure. We are also developing advanced image processing techniques to remove noise and improve the quality of OCT scans. Psychophysical (light and dark adaptation) and electrophysiological (ERG) techniques allow us to probe retinal function and to relate retinal function to retinal structure. Using these techniques we are able to investigate how photoreceptors and post-receptoral retinal elements respond to light stimulation. Thus, we can determine the relationship between measures of retinal structure and function. This will not only aid in the early detection of retinal disease, but also enable assessment of therapeutic potential, and evaluation of the effectiveness of treatment strategies. Visual and Perceptual Adaptation Human cone type-specific adaptation For the effective operation of the photopic visual system, sensitivity must be maintained over a six-log-unit range of light levels. To do this, the system must adjust its response based on the ambient light level the system must adapt. We use paired-flash ERGs to isolate cone responses to coloured flashes after various levels of adaptation to coloured fields. Analysis of the results in cone-contrast space will allow us to identify the range of light levels over which cone type-specific adaptation occurs, and to isolate the site of cone type-specific adaptation. Mechanisms of 3-D adaptation and after-effects When patients have a change in their glasses they often experience distortions in the apparent 3-D layout of the environment; the distortions become less apparent over a period of several weeks. This is one example of the ability of the human visual system to adapt to 3-D distortions. We are investigating the many types of adaptation and aftereffects that occur with

3-D stimuli. By independently manipulating depth cues in stereoscopic stimuli we are able to determine the contributions of individual cues to the different types of 3-D adaptation. Recent publications:
Pianta, M.J., Aleman, T.S., Cideciyan, A.V., Sunness, J.S., Li, Y., Campochiaro, B.A., Campochiaro, P.A., Zack, D.J., Stone, E.M. & Jacobson, S.G. (2003). In vivo micropathology of Best macular dystrophy with optical coherence tomography, Experimental Eye Research, 76 (2), 203-211. Jacobson, S.G., Cideciyan, A.V., Aleman, T.S., Pianta, M.J., Sumaroka, A., Schwartz, S.B., Smilko, E.E., Milam, A.H., Sheffield, V.C. & Stone, E.M. (2003). Crumbs homolog 1 (CRB1) mutations result in a thick human retina with abnormal lamination. Human Molecular Genetics, 12 (9), 1073-1078. Pianta, M.J. & Kalloniatis, M. (2000). Characterization of dark adaptation in human cone pathways: an application of the equivalent background hypothesis. Journal of Physiology, 528, 591-608. Pianta, M.J. & Gillam, B.J. (2003). Paired and unpaired features can be equally effective in human depth perception. Vision Research, 43 (1), 1-6.

Contact Details: Dr Michael Pianta Ph: +61 3 9349 7470

Visual and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory

Associate Professor Trichur Vidyasagar Neural Mechanisms of Attention and Memory How does the brain manage to attend to a specific object or region of visual space when it is confronted with innumerable objects, as it normally is in real life? How are we able to pick out a face in a large crowd, often so effortlessly? When we briefly turn away from a visual scene and then get back to it a few seconds later, how do we remember where a particular object of interest was? Our recent studies are among the first to reveal the neural mechanisms involved in these processes. For example, a study in our laboratory using trained macaque monkeys shows how in a delayed match to sample task, where the animal needs to remember both objects and their locations, significant modulation of the activity of cells in the macaque primary visual cortex was observed. This challenges the classical view that the primary visual cortex, a relatively early station in the visual pathway, is largely a site of basic feature detection. Parallel Pathways in Vision At least three morphologically and functionally different types of optic nerve axons (parvocellular, magnocellular and koniocellular) are known to carry the visual information from the eyes to the brain. Each of these channels specialise for a set of different attributes of the visual scene, such as the parvocellular pathways being important for colour vision and the magnocellular pathways being particularly sensitive to low contrast stimuli. While such segregation of function is essential for an efficient representation of the visual world at the peripheral level, these representations of the basic attributes need to be put together in meaningful ways to encode and recognise the countless numbers of real objects. One of the means by which this is possibly done is by limited convergence of these pathways at different levels of the visual system. We have recently shown that, contrary to most earlier reports, the parvocellular and magnocellular pathways do not remain totally segregated in the primary visual cortex of monkeys, but show functionally significant convergence on to single nerve cells. We are now extending these studies not only to the lesser-known koniocellular pathway, but also to feedback inferences. The primary visual cortex of anaesthetised macaques provides the closest possible animal model that can be used with the present techniques for studying human vision. Nature of the Neural Code It is known that trains of action potentials (spikes) carry information between cortical neurons. However, it is much debated whether the actual pattern of impulses is itself important for spike generation or whether the brain largely depends upon average spike densities. One way of studying this issue is to investigate the mechanism that causes the highly irregular pattern of

spike firing seen in cortical cells. While this question has been investigated in many laboratories in in vitro systems (brain slices), our recent experiments bearing on this problem were done in vivo in the intact animal (anaesthetised cats), which preserves the integrity of the sensory inputs and the morphological architecture of the brain. In vivo whole cell recordings are also being undertaken to directly relate synaptic inputs to the spikes. Lateral Interactions in the Visual Cortex While the visual cortex has a detailed topographic representation of the visual world, the horizontal interactions between the neurones and interareal connections (i.e., between different neocortical areas) presumably mediate a number of functions, which remain largely unknown. We are applying the following techniques in anaesthetized cats to test a number of working hypotheses we have in this regard: simultaneous recording from two or more extracellular electrodes; in vivo whole cell recording along with simultaneous extracellular recording at a distant site; microiontophoretic application of agonists and antagonists of neurotransmitters; and reversible inactivation of specific cortical areas by cooling to study interareal influences. Visual Search and Dyslexia From our neurophysiological experiments on macaques, we have developed a theory of visuospatial attention that provides a basis for selective attention and that could also potentially explain the cognitive deficits in a number of neurological conditions. For example, the model explains how a defect in the magnocellular stream can lead to a specific reading disability (dyslexia). We are developing a new test based upon this model that might provide an early diagnostic test for dyslexia. Recent publications
Vidyasagar, T.R., Kulikowski, J.J., Lipnicki, D.M. and Dreher, B. (2002) Convergence of parvocellular and magnocellular information channels in the primary visual cortex of the macaque. European Journal of Neuroscience. 16: 945-956 Vidyasagar, T.R (2001) From attentional gating in macaque primary visual cortex to dyslexia in humans. Progress in Brain Research. 134: 297 - 312 Vidyasagar, T.R, Buzs, P, Krisvndey, Z..F., & Eysel, U.T (1999). Release from inhibition reveals the visual past. Nature 399: 422-423.

Contact Details: Assoc Prof Trichur (Sagar) Vidyasagar Ph: +61 3 9349 7404

Visual Functions Laboratory Associate Professor Algis J Vingrys

This laboratory has interests in factors that influence disease development, ageing and normal visual function. We consider the functional aspects of vision with psychophysical and electrophysiological methods. The lab has close links to other laboratories in this department (Dr M Pianta), within Melbourne University (Anatomy and Cell Biology and Ophthalmology) and at other institutes (Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology & Medicine and Food Sciences Department, RMIT University). Our human work considers how the normal eye processes coloured and temporal variations in the visual field. This information has been used to develop tests of early visual loss. One such development is the application of luminous-pedestal flickering targets to perimetry. With this work we are identifying the mechanisms involved in processing the luminous-pedestal flicker thresholds. The laboratory has also defined the effect that normal ageing has on vision and studied the effects that ocular diseases, such as ARMD diabetes and glaucoma, have on vision. In particular we are interested in developing tests that can detect these processes early. Our expertise in retinal electrophysiology is applied to address some of the questions that we find from human studies and has been applied in several collaborative projects that consider the effect of:

structure and function relationships in glaucoma and diabetes (with Drs E Fletcher and M Pianta) neo-natal deprivation of Omega-3 fatty acids on ERG and ocular and systemic physiology (with Dr Weisinger & Prof Sinclair).

Students wishing to work in the Visual Functions Laboratory will learn computing skills, modelling, electrophysiological and/or psychophysical methods. Collaborative projects will provide a broad experience in anatomy, systemic physiology and/or biochemical methods. Those interested should discuss potential projects with A/Prof Vingrys. Recent publications
Turpin, A., AM. Mckendrick, CA. Johnson, AJ. Vingrys. (2002). Performance of efficient test procedures for Frequency Doubling Technology (FDT) perimetry in normal and glaucomatous eyes Investigative Ophthalmology Vision Science . 43: 3, 709-715, 2002. Bui, BV., JA. Armitage, M. Cooper, AJ. Vingrys. 2003. ACE inhibition salvages the visual loss caused by diabetes. Diabetologia.46: 401-408 Phipps, JA., AJ. Vingrys, RH. Guymer. (2003). Loss of cone function in Age-related maculopathy. Investigative Ophthalmology Vision Science.44: 2277-2283. C1 Bui, BV., M. Kalloniatis, AJ. Vingrys. (2003). The contribution of glycolytic and oxidative pathways to retinal photoreceptor function. Investigative Ophthalmology Vision Science. 44: 2708-15. C1 Armitage, JA., AD. Pearce, AJ. Sinclair, AJ. Vingrys, RS. Weisinger, HS. Weisinger. (2003) Increased blood pressure later in life associated with perinatal n-3 fatty acid deficiency. Lipids. 38: 459-64.

Contact Details: Assoc Prof Algis Vingrys Ph: +61 3 8344 7006

Ocular Response to Virtual Imagery Laboratory Professor Neville McBrien

Much of the new human interface technology manipulates the view of the real world so that the user sees virtual imagery. This can be in the form of a completely virtual environment, such as head-mounted virtual reality systems or with symbology overlaying the outside world scene, as with head-up displays. The oculomotor system (primarily accommodation and vergence) is sensitive to features of the visual environment, such as proximal objects and image quality. Anomalous responses of the oculomotor system and symptoms have been reported in highly demanding situations, where even minor changes could compromise safety. Accommodation and aircraft head-up displays Head-up displays have been used in military aircraft for some considerable time and more recently in commercial aircraft. We have recently investigated the ocular accommodation response when viewing an aircraft head-up display in a simulated flying environment. We found that the level of anomalous accommodation was small and predominantly due to the level of cognitive demand required for the symbology displayed. A simple way of reducing the effect has been devised, which is of particular use when there are no features of interest in the outside world (such as flying at night or through clouds) as this is when the amount of inappropriate accommodation is greatest. Influence of cognition and age on car head-up displays Head-up display technology has been used in cars in the USA and Japan since the early 1980 s, but interest in this technology is only just beginning to gather momentum. The ergonomic issues involved are different to aircraft where the outside world scene is mainly simple and distant and the users highly trained. Over-accommodation has been shown to be greater than with aircraft head-up displays. With high cognitive demand tasks the anomalous accommodative response is increased, response times are slower and more details in the

outside world are missed. Older drivers have also been shown to have slower response times and to miss more changes in the outside world scene than younger drivers. Ocular responses to stereoscopic virtual imagery Viewing virtual reality imagery requires the compromise between viewing a flat screen at a constant distance (constant focus and vergence demands) and the three dimensional depth cues which would indicate the need for focussing and convergence adjustments. This potential conflict to the ocular motor system and the reports of visual discomfort when viewing such systems has led us to investigate the ocular response to stereoscopic virtual imagery in headmounted displays. In collaboration with a major regulatory body for the television and communication industry we are utilising state of the art technology and infra-red measurement systems to investigate the ocular response to stereoscopic virtual imagery. Current and future investigations in the laboratory are aimed at understanding the physiological basis of the ocular symptoms experienced by users of immersive virtual reality systems and stereoscopic (3D) television imagery. The work is funded by major regulatory bodies and enables us to use state of the art technology to investigate these important optometric and ergonomic issues on ocular health and safety. Recent publications
Wolffsohn, J.S., Edgar, G.K. & McBrien, N.A. (1998). The influence of cognition and age on accommodation when using a car head-up display (HUD). Ophthalmic & Physiol. Opt. 18 Wolffsohn, J.S., Edgar, G.K. & McBrien, N.A. (1998) The effect of viewing a car head-up display on ocular accommodation and response times. Vision in Vehicles Vol 6.

Contact Details: Professor Neville McBrien ph: +61 3 8344 7001

National Vision Research Institute Laboratory Professor Paul Martin and Associate Professor Ulrike Grnert
The long-term goal of our research is improved knowledge of how the eye and brain work together to give the sense of sight. This knowledge forms the rational basis for understanding the basis of human visual performance and visual dysfunction, and for the treatment of visual disorders. Our research projects at the NVRI address two broad themes: the basis of colour vision, and the synaptic circuitry of the retina. Colour vision and colour pathways in the visual system. Colour is one of the most important attributes of objects in the visible world, but the sensory processes at the basis of colour vision are poorly understood. Colour vision disturbances are also a feature of the early stages of visual diseases such as glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa. In anatomical studies, we study the connections of nerve cells (neurones) in the eye and brain in order to trace the pathways taken by colour-specific signals. In functional studies, we measure colour-specific responses in brain neurones to discover how colour signals are combined with visual signals about the form and motion of objects in the world. Improved knowledge of the processes underlying colour vision can help to design better tests for diagnosis of visual disorders, and improve our understanding of the normal function of the visual system. Synaptic circuitry of the retina.

Neurones communicate with each other by transmission of small electrical and chemical signals. Defects in this communication process (called neurotransmission) lie at the basis of many disorders of the nervous system. The retina (the thin layer of neurones which lines the back of the eye) is an ideal system to study neurotransmission and the basis of neural disorders. We study the fine structure of neurones in the retina, to discover the rules that govern the positioning of the specialised receptor molecules, which allow normal neurotransmission to occur. Recent Publications
Forte, J, Peirce, JW and Lennie, P. (2002). Binocular integration of partially occluded surfaces. Vision Research, 42, 1225-1235. Forte, J, Peirce, JW, Kraft, JM, Krauskopf, J and Lennie, P. (2002). Residual eye-movements in macaque and their effects on visual responses of neurons. Visual Neuroscience, 19, 31-38. Grnert, U, Haverkamp, S, Fletcher, EL and Wssle, H. (2002). Synaptic distribution of ionotropic glutamate receptors in the inner plexiform layer of the primate retina. Journal of Comparative Neurology, 447, 138-151. Krauskopf, J and Forte, JD. (2002). Influence of chromaticity on Vernier and stereo acuity. Journal of Vision, 2, 645-652. Lin, B, Martin, PR and Grnert, U. (2002). Expression and distribution of ionotropic glutamate receptor subunits on parasol ganglion cells in the primate retina. Visual Neuroscience, 19, 453-465 Solomon, SG, Martin, PR,White, AJR, Rttiger, L and Lee, BB. (2002). Modulation sensitivity of ganglion cells in peripheral retina of macaque. Vision Research, 42, 2893-2898. Solomon, SG, White, AJR and Martin, PR. (2002). Extra-classical receptive field properties of parvocellular, magnocellular and koniocellular cells in the primate lateral geniculate nucleus. Journal of Neuroscience, 22, 338-349.

Contact Details: Professor Paul Martin ph: +61 3 9349 7481 Assoc Prof Ulrike Grnert ph: +61 3 9349 7482

Clinical Vision Research Australia Laboratory Dr Carol Lakkis

Clincial Vision Research Australia (CVRA) incorporates all of the clinical research activities of the Victorian College of Optometry. CVRA interacts with the contact lens and ophthalmic industry to offer clinical trials, in depth clinical and laboratory research facilities and expertise available in a large clinical facility linked to a University environment. CVRAs current research activities include investigations of contact lens and ophthalmic lens designs, refractive surgery outcomes, the microbiology of contact lens wear, and therapeutic treatment of ocular disease. Pathogenesis of Contact Lens-Related Corneal Infections The aim of this research is to determine why patients who wear contact lenses are more prone to developing microbial keratitis (MK). In particular, we are interested in the microorganism Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which is often associated with MK and can cause rapid and severe vision loss. Using clinical and laboratory methods, this project involves the study of: - bacterial interaction with tear film factors and the ocular surface, - bacterial adherence to the cornea and contact lenses, including the newly developed silicone-hydrogel lenses, - mechanisms of bacterial invasion and killing of corneal epithelial cells (in vitro using epithelial cell cultures). Contact Lens Disinfection Microbial contamination of contact lens disinfection systems occurs during the normal use of these products, and can occur even in the presence of good compliance with lens care procedures. Contamination increases the exposure of the eye to microorganisms during

contact lens wear and can lead to a variety of infectious and inflammatory complications. Using clinical and laboratory methods, the aim of this research project is to gain a better understanding of factors that contribute to the development of contact lens and solution contamination. This project involves investigations of the mechanisms of bacterial resistance to disinfection and the efficacy of current disinfection systems for use with silicone-hydrogel lenses. Ocular Response to Contact Lenses: Dryness The most common reason for discontinuation of contact lens wear is dryness-related discomfort; however, factors that contribute to the sensation of dryness during contact lens wear are still not well understood. The aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of the causes of contact lens-related dryness using clinical and laboratory methods. Questions to be addressed include: - can tear film characteristics be used to predict success with contact lens wear? - what impact do different lens materials have on tear film characteristics and the sensation of dryness? Silicone-Hydrogel Continuous Wear Contact Lenses Silicone-hydrogel lenses, which were released onto the market a few years ago, appear to have solved the problem of oxygen supply to the cornea during overnight contact lens wear. Despite the increasing popularity of these lenses, it is still not clear whether this mode of lens wear will reduce the risk of infection with continuous wear. However, the incidence of inflammatory responses with these lenses during continuous wear appears to be equal to or higher than that observed with traditional hydrogel extended wear. The aim of this project is to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for the inflammatory reactions observed with silicone-hydrogel continuous wear. Investigations include whether mechanical factors play a role in increasing susceptibility to inflammation, as silicone hydrogel lenses have a higher modulus of elasticity than hydrogel lenses. Stagnation of the tear film beneath the contact lenses may also play a role in the development of inflammatory reactions, particularly if bacteria or their byproducts are trapped beneath the lenses during overnight wear. Recent Publications
Lakkis C, Fleiszig SMJ. Resistance of Pseudomonas aeruginosa isolates to hydrogel contact lens disinfection correlates with cytotoxic activity. J Clin Microbiol 2001; 39(4): 1477-1486.

Contact Details: Dr Carol Lakkis Ph: +61 3 9349 7420

Authorised by: Head of Department Department of Optometry & Vision Sciences The University of Melbourne The information in this publication was correct at the time of printing, June 04. The University reserves the right to make changes at short notice and after publication.