04.02.2019 change 04.02.2019

The International Center for Translational Eye Research will be established in Warsaw

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

The International Center for Translational Eye Research (ICTER) will be established in Warsaw thanks to the funding granted by the Foundation for Polish Science (FNP) in the International Research Agenda programme (IRAP). Its goals will include the development of tools for early diagnosis of eye diseases.

The project was selected in the International Research Agendas competition and received a nearly PLN 35 million grant for a period of five years, the Foundation for Polish Science announced in a release sent to PAP.

The center will operate at the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences. It will include up to five independent research groups. The international partner of the center will be the Institute of Ophthalmology at the University College London (UCL) in the UK.

The center will be run by world-class scientists - Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski from the Department of Physical Chemistry of Biological Systems at the Institute of Physical Chemistry PAS and Prof. Krzysztof Palczewski from the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine in the U.S.

As the average human life-span increases in developed countries, the burden of vision loss or impairment will concern a growing number of people. The main causes of vision impairment include cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma and other diseases of the retina. Early diagnosis and treatment are necessary to minimize the destructive and irreversible consequences of these diseases.

"The key scientific challenge of the International Center for Translational Eye Research is an in-depth study of the dynamics and plasticity of the human eye, which will translate into the development of new therapies and diagnostic tools" says Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski, quoted in the release sent to PAP.

Researchers at ICTER will develop innovative methods and tools to measure retinal activity in real time, which will allow to detect pathological changes in the eye earlier than the current procedures and tools. The possibility of early diagnosis will also be crucial for the selection of appropriate pharmacological treatment of degenerative changes and other diseases of the retina.

The combination of innovative retinal visualization methods and the latest discoveries in the field of pharmacology will allow scientists to propose alternative treatments for complex retinal diseases. "First of all, we want to facilitate the selection of new pharmacological interventions by explaining the influence of individual molecules on the occurrence of degenerative changes in the retina" - said Prof. Krzysztof Palczewski, who, together with his colleagues, has been involved in ophthalmic pharmacology for over 30 years.

Another challenge that researchers from ICTER want to tackle is the administration of new compounds to the retina of the eye in an effective and controlled manner. According to Prof. Wojtkowski, currently the first-choice for administering retinal drugs are intravitreal injections. "Unfortunately, the possibility of using this solution is limited to selected cases, and its potential remains unused. Carrying out manipulations on objects with sizes expressed in microns, as in the case of retina, requires exceptional precision and the ability to move around a very limited and delicate work area. Additional challenges include the natural limitations associated with dexterity, hand tremor, and the precision of the positioning of the tools. For these reasons, we want to propose robotic, fully automated intravitreal injections" - says Prof. Wojtkowski.

The International Center for Translational Eye Research is a multidisciplinary initiative. The center will carry out research in the field of applied optics, new technologies, engineering, chemistry, biophysics, biology and medicine. "It would take at least two decades for one team to complete all our goals in a single research project. But with a comprehensive research plan and good work organization of all research teams involved in the project, we intend to achieve these goals within 5 years" - concludes Prof. Maciej Wojtkowski.

The Foundation for Polish Science has been running the Smart Growth Operational Programme (SG OP). The result of IREP will be the establishment of highly specialised research centres in Poland to deliver globally competitive research. (PAP)

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