February 26, 2024

Thanks to Donor Support, St. Joe’s Leads the Way in Clinical Trials Researching Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Seeing a smile light up the face of a loved one. Reading a really great book.
Driving down a winding road with the windows down.
Too often we take the gift of sight, and how much it makes possible, for granted.
So today, we’re paying homage to February being Age-Related Macular Degeneration Month

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is Canada’s leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 55. Over time, AMD causes the loss of an individual’s central vision – the most critical part of eyesight for day to day tasks like driving, getting dressed, reading and more.

This kind of vision loss significantly impacts how people function on a day-to-day basis. It can lead to a lack of independence, social isolation, and affect other key quality-of-life indicators. As a result, those living with AMD can be at increased risk for other health concerns, including depression, anxiety and dementia.

At the Hamilton Regional Eye Institute – located at the King Campus of St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Dr. Varun Chaudhary, Chief of Ophthalmology, and his team are dedicated to helping patients experiencing AMD and other eye health concerns.

The Institute supports the ophthalmology needs of 1.4 million people living across the Greater Hamilton, Niagara and Brantford regions. More than 7,000 eye surgeries take place at the Institute each year, including corneal transplants; cataract removals, vitreoretinal, oculo-plastic and glaucoma procedures. The team also sees more than 80,000 outpatient visits annually – all aimed at improving or retaining their patients’ eyesight.

But that’s not all that happens at the Eye Institute. It’s also a hub of eye medicine research. Canada’s largest vision loss study is currently underway at St. Joe’s and a brand-new research lab has recently been installed thanks to the support of two anonymous donors.

A $250,000 donation from a grateful patient of Dr. Chaudhary’s, and a $55,000 donation from a local Hamilton couple also grateful for Dr. Chaudhary’s care, helped support the opening of the Advanced Vitreoretinal Imaging Lab at the Eye Institute. Dr. Chaudhary and his research team at the lab are using state-of-the-art technology to identify key imaging markers to help personalize treatment options for patients living with AMD. 

Over time, Dr. Chaudhary and his team plan to collect aggregate data from thousands of retinal images and patient biomarkers, and apply artificial intelligence and machine learning to understand the factors that can lead to the development of retinal diseases, their prevalence among Canadians, the typical progression of diseases, and how new treatments may be able to help slow that progression.

“Equipment and research are two areas of healthcare that are not well-funded by the operating dollars Hospitals like St. Joe’s receive from the government,” says Dr. Chaudhary. “But thanks to donations from our community of grateful patients, our new Vitreoretinal Research Lab is placing St. Joe’s at the forefront of national clinical trial research that will help those living with AMD and vision loss here in Hamilton and around the world. We understand how much our patients value their eyesight – and we’re committed to unearthing new ways to help them to keep it for as long as possible.”

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