The project Harmonisation of Western Australia multi-site optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) datasets for new biomarker discovery and application in diabetic retinopathy, funded by Diabetes Research WA, aims to introduce and validate a data analysis framework so datasets from multiple clinics in Western Australia can be combined and analysed to identify more sensitive biomarkers of diabetic retinopathy.

The Research Team

The project is led by Dr Danka Sampson from Lions Eye Institute and the University of Western Australia and supported by co-investigators A/Prof. Fred Chen (Lions Eye Institute), A/Prof. Angus Turner (Lions Outback Vision), Dr Jeremiah Lim (University of Western Australia) and Dr Mark Chia (University College London).

In Australia, diabetes affects more than 1.7 million (1 in 20). In Western Australia alone, there are more than 128,000 people now diagnosed with diabetes. For every person diagnosed, it is estimated that there is another person who has diabetes but does not know it yet.

 

What is Diabetic Retinopathy?

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a serious eye problem that can develop in people with diabetes. DR can damage the microvasculature (the smallest vessels in the internal layer of the eye) even before people experience a decline in their vision. The early detection of vessel damage can prevent severe vision loss. However, there is a lack of sensitive diagnostic tools and biomarkers (medical signs of disease) to detect the early onset of microvascular damage.




 

Creating Big OCTA Data sets

Optical coherence tomography angiography (OCTA) has been increasingly used to diagnose eye diseases as a safe and quick test for assessing the eye’s smallest blood vessels. Compared to other instruments in the eye clinic, OCTA images the blood vessels non-invasively and with high resolution. The technique is gaining momentum in the standard of care.

Critical barriers to widespread usage include the lack of a large normative dataset of OCTA parameters. Big datasets can be achieved by combining data from multiple clinics. However, this is not a trivial task due to non-biological variations introduced during data collection across multiple sites and differences in OCTA cameras.

To reduce variability, this study will first develop and validate a data analysis framework to harmonise OCTA datasets collected at different Western Australian clinics. The harmonised datasets will be used to generate preliminary data on OCTA-derived microvascular biomarkers in DR in Western Australians. This will enable the study, prevention, treatment and monitoring of this common eye disease.

In the sphere of medical research, where each breakthrough hinges on a wealth of diverse perspectives, the role of inclusivity is paramount. At Diabetes Research Western Australia, we are committed to the invaluable contributions of women in the sciences, particularly in our unwavering quest to find solutions for diabetes—a condition that affects millions globally.

Our recent grant awardees, Dr Lakshini Herat and Dr Danka Sampson, exemplify the beacon for the cause, their achievements underscoring the crucial need to inspire and embolden young women to immerse themselves in STEM subjects. Their journey is not simply one of personal or professional accomplishment; it is a beacon for what can be achieved when opportunities are equitable and diverse voices are heard.

Dr Herat speaks passionately about this, asserting,

“Science thrives on fresh perspectives—it’s the lifeblood of innovation. I was fortunate to have mentors who believed in this principle, and now, it’s my turn to encourage young women that their curiosity and intellect can catalyse the next wave of scientific discovery.”

Dr Sampson echoes this sentiment, stating,

“My zeal for medical research is matched only by my commitment to foster a learning environment where young girls envisage themselves not just as participants, but as leaders in science.”

As we celebrate International Women’s Day, let us pledge to not only honour the strides made by women like Dr Herat and Dr Sampson but also to actively create an environment where young women are motivated to choose and excel in STEM subjects. Let this day serve as a reminder that their choices will shape the future of medical research and, indeed, the well-being of humanity.

In nurturing such an environment, we do more than empower individuals—we fortify the very fabric of our scientific community. The route to a world without diabetes is laid with the skills, insights, and innovations that all scientists bring to STEM fields.

At Diabetes Research Western Australia, we stand dedicated to this cause, steadfast in our support for the brilliant young women who will lead us into a healthier tomorrow.

Perth, 21 February. In a heartwarming display of sportsmanship and community support, West Coast Eagles champion Jamie Cripps hosted an extraordinary footy clinic for over 40 young people with diabetes. The ProtoDPS DRWA Crippa Fun Footy Clinic, held at the Eagles’ training ground, was not just about football; it was a beacon of hope for young people managing diabetes.

Jamie Cripps, the only AFL player with Type 1 Diabetes and an ambassador for Diabetes Research Western Australia, shared his experiences and inspired the youngsters. His presence was a testament to the fact that diabetes is not a barrier to achieving sporting excellence.

 

The clinic catered to children aged 6-16, offering them a unique opportunity to train with the Eagles’ players, learn top tips from the pros, and, most importantly, meet and interact with role models. It wasn’t all about footy drills and skills; the event also included a tour of the Eagles’ training facilities, allowing the kids to experience a day in the life of an AFL player.

Jamie Cripps, Medium Forward at the West Coast Eagles and Type-1 Diabetic urged young people to find out what’s important to them and pursue it: “Once you receive a diagnosis, it’s important to be vigilant and do what you must to stay healthy. But it will only stop you from achieving your dreams if you let it. Anything fuelled by passion, dreams and hard work will be a success!”

 

 

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This ProtoDPS DRWA Crippa Fun Footy Clinic, was more than a sporting event; it was a platform for encouragement, demonstrating to these young people that their dreams are valid and achievable, regardless of the challenges they face with diabetes. It underscored the importance of community support and the powerful role of sports in fostering resilience and confidence.

Brad Russell-Lane, Director at Diabetes Research WA and lead organiser of the footy clinic  commented: “Young people look for role models like Jamie, as it shows you can do anything at the most elite level. But they also look for kinship and people who are just like them. The footy clinic aims to inspire and connect.

Let’s celebrate this fantastic initiative that not only honed the footy skills of these youngsters but also scored a goal in the hearts of many, proving that with determination, support, and the right role models, every hurdle can be crossed.

For more details about the ProtoDPS Diabetes Research WA Crippa fun footy clinic, please contact us.

The ProtoDPS DRWA Crippa Fun Footy Clinic would not have been possible without the support of the following partners who kindly donated funds, time and goods to make the day a success.

 

Naming Sponsor:

ProtoDPS

Support Partners:

 

Burley Sekem Woolworths Dog Swamp Telethon Research Center

 

 

 

We are pleased to announce that the ProtoDPS DRWA Crippa Fun Footy Clinic has been rescheduled!

Date: 21 February 2024
Time: 4-7pm
Location: Mineral Resources Park
Costs: $20pp

What is the ProtoDPS DRWA Crippa Fun Footy Clinic? 

The ProtoDPS DRWA Crippa Fun Footy Clinic is a footy-filled fun afternoon for young people with diabetes. Jamie Cripps and a few of his mates of the West Coast Eagles will show young people some of the tricks of the trade.

 

Who can attend the clinic?

The Clinic is especially designed for young people aged 6-16 living with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

 

What’s included? 

An on-field clinic, a tour of the Eagles training facilities, sausage sizzle and giveaways!

 

Headline Sponsor:

ProtoDPS

November 2023

Diabetes Research Western Australia would like to congratulate Dr Lakshini Herat on winning the prestigious Professor Lyn Beazley AO Emerging Leader Award.

The awarding body stated the following:

The Professor Lyn Beazley AO Emerging Leader Award aims to recognise and support early career researchers who have demonstrated exceptional promise and dedication in their scientific or clinical research endeavours.

The award is named in honour of RPH Research Foundation’s immediate past Board Chair Professor Lyn Beazley AO, in recognition of her leadership, advocacy of research and commitment to supporting the next generation of researchers.

Dr Herat is a passionate medical researcher striving to develop effective treatments for the management of hypertension, diabetes, and its complications. Her research focuses on understanding how Sodium Glucose Co-transporter (SGLT) family members, known as “gliflozins”, protect organs such as the heart, kidneys and eyes in diabetes and hypertension.

Dr Herat’s research has revealed that “gliflozins” lower blood pressure by reducing the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and thereby protects the heart and kidneys in diabetes and hypertension, a completely new finding identifying the sympathetic nervous system as an important mediator of “gliflozins” beneficial effects. She has also discovered that these medications protect the eyes during diabetes, by lowering the harmful proteins that cause the uncontrolled growth of weak blood vessels in the retina.

Working with the Dobney Hypertension Centre as one of the RPH Research Foundation’s Career Advancement Fellows, Dr Herat has received multiple prizes and more than $530,000 in grant funding.  She has been recognised for her work inspiring the next generation of researchers by encouraging young women to pursue STEM.

Dr Herat has also shared her research findings at local, national, and international conferences. She is a passionate advocate for sharing research with those living with diabetes, and the community, to empower individuals with knowledge, promote proactive healthcare behaviours, and contribute to better diabetes management and eye health outcomes within our community.

This article was originally published on the RPH Research Foundation website. 

The Parliament of Australia recently adopted an enquiry into diabetes in Australia, and Diabetes Research WA has submitted a response.

In a mini-podcast, Peter Kerr, Chairman of Diabetes Research WA explains why we believe there is a very strong case for an increase in funding in a coordinated way in Australia.

Existing expertise already present in Australia can add tremendous value, but only if funding is available.

You can read our full response here.