The University of Newcastle, Australia

Local Lions have a clear vision for funding research

Friday, 29 June 2018

When Associate Professor Sally McFadden spoke at Dungog Lions Club in 2016 about her long-term research working at solving the riddle of myopia, her words travelled to Mrs Carole Powell, Lions Australia 201N3 District Coordinator. Mrs Powell was looking to fund a local project with global impact to celebrate the Lions Centenary, and this project was the perfect fit.

Carole Powell and Associate Professor Sally McFadden
Carole Powell, Lions with Associate Professor Sally McFadden.

Head of the HMRI UON Vision Sciences Laboratory, Associate Professor McFadden has dedicated almost 30 years to researching myopia – one of the world’s leading causes of blindness. Her team were part of the ground-breaking study which totally changed the global course of research into the condition – when it revealed that short-sightedness (myopia) is not genetic – it’s caused by a changing environment and the way that we use our eyes.

The global incidence of myopia has increased dramatically, and by 2050 myopia is set to impact 50% of the world’s population and be the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Associate Professor McFadden discovered cells in the eye that she believes are the root cause of the signals that leads to increased eye growth and hence myopia. Following on from this, her team ascertained how to inhibit the development of myopia by modifying those signals.

Associate Professor McFadden still recalls the moment she first saw those pivotal cells through the microscope. “It was really thrilling to see the actual cell that we knew was implicated in myopia,” Professor McFadden said. “Then we started to play with it and see if we could turn it off or on – and we could see that there was a solution that we could actually implement.”

Years of focussed study now permits the team the opportunity to translate that research into community health solutions. “Building on what the team has done, we have the opportunity to stamp out preventable blindness through myopia,” Mrs Powell explained. “That’s an amazing thing, to be part of this work is exceedingly exciting.”

This $25,000 funding will allow the team to develop potential drug treatments to target these cells and reverse myopia. Carole Powell was adamant that this was the project that the Lions Australia 201N3 District would fund for their centenary celebrations. “We believe that the outcome of this research will have far-reaching and extremely positive outcomes for people with high myopia.”

The funds for this project were raised by Lions, Lioness and Leo clubs from Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Bulahdelah, Scone, Mudgee, Central Coast and towns and communities within those boundaries.

* HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.

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