This month, Optometry and Vision Science (OVS) proudly presents a very special theme issue on age-related macular degeneration (AMD). As our understanding of both dry and wet AMD is accelerating, and potential treatment options are rapidly expanding, we thought it would be timely to look at the most recent research, both laboratory and clinical, and bring it together in a single issue dedicated to the topic. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe vision loss in older people, with almost 15% of the population older than 80 years worldwide having AMD.1 Research has given us new hope for possible prevention and treatment, and technological advances have made it feasible to do much more for those who have lost sight from AMD and who want to maximize their residual vision.
Optometry and Vision Science is most fortunate to put together a team of Guest Editors who, themselves, are making impressive contributions in this area and who, in their Guest Editorial, give us a superb insider’s view to the many advances in AMD research, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation. They, and our authors, take us into the exciting world of stem cells, genetics, and advances in technology and imaging that offer new promise for those who have lost vision. We learn of the promise of these fields for advancing AMD care and knowledge.
Our own OVS Board member, Erica Fletcher, who is conducting leading edge research in AMD and diabetes with animal models, brought the team together. She enjoys an international reputation as being at the forefront, as do her four other Guest Editors. Erica is a past Academy Borish Awardee and an incoming Fellow this November. Erica has been ably supported by Susana Chung (University of California [UC] Berkeley, California) and three of Erica’s colleagues from the University of Melbourne, Australia, where many exciting research advances are taking place.
Erica Fletcher, OD, PhD, FAAO Candidate, is an Associate Professor and Reader (tenured) in the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience at the University of Melbourne. She was the Academy’s 2006 Irvin M. Borish Award winner given for exceptional promise as a clinician researcher. And as noted, she is a current OVS Board member. That promise was certainly fulfilled and today she enjoys an international reputation as a leading international researcher who is unraveling the basic science mysteries of AMD in the context of problems that are important for clinicians for care of AMD patients.
After her optometry training and her PhD at the University of Melbourne (1997), Erica completed postdoctoral training with Prof. Dr. Heinz Wässle at the Max-Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, Germany. For more than 10 years, her well-funded retinal cell biology research laboratory at her home institution has focused on understanding the factors that exacerbate photoreceptor death in inherited retinal degenerations and AMD. Her laboratory is a contributor to the large Australian government–funded consortium to develop an electronic retinal implant.
Susana Chung, OD, PhD, FAAO, is a full Professor of Optometry and Vision Science in the School of Optometry at UC Berkeley. She, too, is a current OVS Board member and led the recent OVS Feature Issue on Low Vision2 (Optom Vis Sci September 2012, Volume 89, Issue 9). Susana was the 2012 Glenn A Fry Awardee and published her award lecture in OVS (June 2013).3 Susana enjoys a well-deserved international reputation in the field of low vision and her research has been well funded through the National Institutes of Health.
Susana completed her clinical training in Hong Kong and her PhD at the University of Houston. She followed that with postdoctoral training at the University of Minnesota with 2013 Academy Prentice Medalist Gordon Legge. Before her appointment as an associate professor at UC Berkeley in 2008, she had faculty appointments at Indiana University and the University of Houston.
Laura Downie is a relatively recent graduate OD (2003) and PhD (2008) who has already shown exceptional scholarly talent and promise. In fact, Laura will receive the 2014 Irvin M. Borish Award in Denver this November 2014. She has a wide range of clinical and basic science interests, especially in evidence-based clinical practice, and is a keen scholar in the area of AMD. In this theme Feature Issue, she leads with the “Editors Choice” paper on the evidence-based literature on treatments for AMD; it is a designated paper that is free to readers (they are granted immediate open access) anywhere in the world. She also coauthored a second paper on color vision function in AMD in this issue of OVS.
Laura is Lecturer and the Director of Cornea and Contact Lenses in the Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences at the University of Melbourne. She is recognized as a leader in ocular disease and contact lenses in Australia.
Robyn Guymer, MD, PhD, FRANZCO, is a well-established international researcher in AMD. Leaders in the field frequently cite her work. Prof. Robyn Guymer is a medical retinal specialist at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Melbourne, Australia, and is Head of the Macular Research Unit at the Centre for Eye Research Australia, which she established in 1997 at the University of Melbourne. She is also Deputy Head of the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Melbourne.
After her PhD at the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Prof. Robyn Guymer undertook ophthalmology training in Melbourne and then completed a 2-year medical retinal fellowship at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London, under Prof. Alan Bird.
Prof. Guymer is a clinician scientist, with AMD being her major research interest. Her research papers are principally on AMD. More specifically, her research interests have been the genetic and lifestyle risk factors predisposing to AMD, identification of new outcome measures, both anatomical and functional, as well as conducting investigator-initiated clinical trials into novel interventions for the earliest stages of AMD. Translating the knowledge gained from the bench into the clinic has been a major focus as has been providing a clinical perspective back into the laboratory. She is leading the world’s first randomized controlled trial of nanosecond laser intervention in AMD, which, if successful, will revolutionize prophylactic treatment. Her accomplishments have firmly established her position as one of a small group of leading international experts in both research and clinical aspects of AMD. This is evidenced by her inclusion in an international expert working group on AMD (Beckman Initiative in AMD, National Academies of Science, USA) where she cochaired a working group (January 2014) and has been invited to another National Institutes of Health working group (March 2014). Her publications demonstrate an upward trajectory for her research. She has published almost 200 papers, with 100 of these published in the last 5 years.
Robyn has enjoyed long-standing national and international collaborations in genetics, epidemiology, and clinical trials related to AMD. Robyn is a coauthor of two papers in this August Feature Issue.
Algis Vingrys, OD, PhD, FAAO, is Professor of Optometry and Vision Science and the most recent Head of the Department at the College of Optometry (2011 to 2014) at the University of Melbourne. He routinely provides reviewer and topical editor support and authorship for OVS and has an impressive research program. His research interests range from visual neurophysiology, to psychophysics of vision function, to ergonomics of vision. He has two papers in this current issue with his coauthors.
Algis’ well-funded research is relatively broad in its scope; he has authored more than 200 papers. His research can be characterized into three distinct areas: (1) visual neurophysiology (e.g., his laboratory contributed to much of the contemporary understanding of those factors that are involved in the neural deficits caused by omega-3 deficiency, and his diabetes research has provided evidence that diabetic neuropathy precedes vascular change and that it can be ameliorated by dietary omega-3 intake and ACE inhibition), (2) psychophysics (e.g., novel clinical applications for the early detection of visual disorders), and (3) ergonomics (e.g., vision standards and related human factor issues for government agencies).
Algis, Erica, Laura, and Susana will be joined by Mark Swanson, OD, MSPH, FAAO, to present a continuing education course (“OVS Presents: Age-Related Macular Degeneration”) at the Denver Academy meeting in November 2014; it will be based on this AMD Feature Issue. Look for them and enjoy their expertise and focus on the implications of this AMD Feature Issue in clinical practice.
In all, I believe that readers, clinicians, and researchers will welcome this attention to AMD advances. Our Guest Editors have a marvelous Guest Editorial that you will really enjoy. It is a guided tour of the 24 papers published in this especially large issue on AMD.
In my Editorial, I am also delighted to announce and welcome Michael Twa, OD, PhD, FAAO, as Associate Editor for OVS. Michael began his term July 1, 2014, and he is a most welcomed and needed addition to our editorial team. The position of Associate Editor is now critical for OVS, which has had such success in recent years, including a tripling of submissions from around the world and a doubling of actual manuscripts published. The load on our Editor in Chief, Managing Editor, OVS Board members, and our Associate Topical Editors has been excessive in the last 2 to 3 years. Michael is the outgoing Chair of the Academy’s Scientific Program Committee and he brings a wealth of experience and talent to the position. His appointment is evidence of the success of OVS, including its well-received bolstering of the clinical aspects of research and innovative patient, care since October 2012.
Michael is an Associate Professor of Optometry and Vision Science at the University of Houston (UH) College of Optometry. His own research interests are quite broad, as is his clinical and research training and past experience with his UH and Ohio State University (OSU) appointments, and his earlier faculty membership at UC San Diego Department of Ophthalmology put him in good stead for this position.
Michael completed his optometry training at UC Berkeley School of Optometry (2000) and spent 4 years in clinical practice and 9 years at UC San Diego (ophthalmology); he completed his MS (2002) and PhD (2006) at OSU College of Optometry. Before his appointment at UH (2007), he taught at OSU. His service to the Academy, on numerous fronts (e.g., Awards Committee and Scientific Program Committee), has served the Academy and the profession well. He was obviously an excellent candidate for this position. Michael’s research interests have breadth, which will serve him well as an editor. His own research laboratory conducts research in biomedical imaging, quantitative modeling, and structural assessments of ocular tissues in degenerative diseases such as the cornea in keratoconus and the optic nerve head in glaucoma. He puts a premium on productive collaborations in biomedical engineering and computer science. Of course, he brings years of clinical patient care and research experience in cornea and contact lenses.
As Editor in Chief, I join the Managing Editor and the entire OVS Board in welcoming Michael to this position. I thank him for his obvious enthusiasm for the task of elevating OVS to even higher levels. He will make my task as Editor in Chief much more manageable.
Finally, I give you a “heads up” on a second theme Feature Issue this coming October 2014 (“Wavefront Refraction and Correction”), and you already have learned from news in early June, and reannounced with the Call for Papers in this issue, that OVS has two theme Feature Issues scheduled for 2015 (“Dry Eye Disease” and “Revolutionary Future Uses of Contact Lenses”). Take a look at the Call for Papers here and also at the OVS Web site.
Editor in Chief
Optometry and Vision Science