News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search

 

Father’s blindness leads to sons vision for eye disease cure

An Auckland bioengineer has made research into screening for eye diseases his life’s obsession in honour of his father who went blind as a boy.

Dr Ehsan Vaghefi of the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences is behind the innovative MyIScope device that has just received nearly $1m in funding in the 2018 round of the Endeavour Fund, New Zealand’s largest contestable research fund.

“My father went blind when he was only 9 years old, due to an undetected eye disease, called juvenile glaucoma. Back then (60 years ago) they did not have the technology to screen and diagnose this condition, and blindness was unavoidable for the children who suffered from this disease.”

Due to his father’s blindness, he became deeply involved with the Iranian Blind Association from an early age, and screening for diseases of the eye became his life obsession.

“My dream is for no child to suffer blindness or to see their parents losing their vision. I hope that all my education, research, amazing work by my team members and this particular funding from MBIE will help me get closer to achieving my dream.”

He was informed by email of his funding success 24 hours before the public announcement.

“I had a sleepless night, I was too excited and planning all the things that we should do now, like hiring new staff, adding to our office and lab space, new experiments. Then my co-applicant Dr David Squirrell came to see me in the morning, and we were literally jumping around with excitement!”

After completing a Bachelor of Science and a Masters degree in biomedical engineering focused on medical imaging of the eye (ophthalmic imaging) he came to the University of Auckland in 2016. Here he took up a PhD project in Bioengineering (supervised by Profs Hunter and Donaldson), which led to a novel modality of imaging the anterior eye. After graduation, he received a lectureship position at the school of Optometry, where he is continuing his research in ophthalmic imaging instrumentation.

In 2018, Dr Vaghefi and Dr Squirrell (ADHB) founded their own start-up company, Toku Eyes (http://www.tokueyes.com/) which is dedicated to developing novel ophthalmic imaging modalities.

Dr Vaghefi says they came up with the MyIScope idea and design after seeing how the current model of eye health care used to diagnose and treat vision-threatening disease in New Zealand is expensive and is concentrated around eyecare clinics or private optometry practices.

MyIScope is a laser-based imaging device that will be capable of screening for early signs of blindness, affordably and quickly. MyIScope is portable and will be operated by a trained nurse and is inexpensive to manufacture so it will eliminate the barriers to eyecare access for lower socioeconomic and remote communities in New Zealand and overseas.

It will also be extremely helpful in developing countries such as India, China and Indonesia, where optometry does not exist as a profession and vision loss, due to lack of basic ophthalmic screening services, is prevalent.

Dr Vaghefi says he and his team of researchers are already working with independent optometrists and primary health care providers to get the MyIScope out and in use.

“In the future, we will train nurses and community care providers to operate MyIScope in their local communities. We will seek user feedback on the operation and design to optimize our technology platform.”

They are planning for the first pre-clinical trial early next year, and first clinical trial early 2020.

The faculty’s Associate Dean (Research) Professor Andrew Shelling, says the funding is a boost to a rapidly growing area of medical research in New Zealand.

“There is a strong future for MyIScope, which will help grow and diversify New Zealand’s emerging MedTech sector, valued at $1.5B in 2017,” Professor Shelling says.

“This funding is great news for Dr Vaghefi and the faculty. I wish him and his team all the best in what I know is a positive future.”

Dr Vaghefi is also thankful for the support of his colleagues, head of school Prof Steven Dakin, and Dr David Squirrell and Dr Diana Siew.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

 

City Of 100 Lovers: Multi-Million Dollar NZ Theatre Production To Launch

Produced in New Zealand, the $8Million budget, musical comedy, City of 100 Lovers, has been created for locals and tourists alike. More>>

Indycars: Dixon Wins Fifth US Championship

The New Zealand motor racing driver Scott Dixon has won the US Indycar championship for the fifth time. Dixon finished second in the final race of the season in Sonoma in California. More>>

ALSO:

Howard Davis Review: The Outsider Art of Tony Fomison

Among such gifted contemporaries as Bill Hammond, Tony de la Tour, and printmaker Jason Grieg, Fomison distinguished himself as highly idiosyncratic, and could have become wealthy, had not his demons prevented him from investing his income wisely. In his near monochrome oil painting on black hessian, he staked out a territory of morbid originality. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books: Immortal Love

The series has a wild-west tone with a steampunk vibe, so if you’re a fan of Joss Whedon’s Firefly or Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea, then chances are you’ll enjoy this book. More>>

Howard Davis Review: The Trappings of Success - McQueen

This troubling documentary about the extraordinary life and untimely death of British fashion designer Alexander McQueen (1969 - 2010) is a cautionary tale of an extremely gifted, but self-destructive soul caught up in a business that chews up and spits out its creative talent. More>>

Anne Russell: On Nanette, And The Limitations Of Stories

Since many detractors fault Gadsby or other women for talking about their trauma publicly, Gadsby’s most ardent fans mistakenly perceive virtually any criticism of Nanette as misogynist. More>>

 
 
 
 
 

LATEST HEADLINES

  • CULTURE
  • HEALTH
  • EDUCATION
 
 
  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland