Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Out of the Darkness

Out of the Darkness

By Mandy Thoo

Researchers find that light therapy and saffron can protect us against the leading stealers of sight.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

As we live longer our eyesight fails, leaving many of us helpless in the dark for years towards the end of our lives. In the fight against sight-stealers, scientists at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Vision Science are opening new fronts: fast, accurate and painless eye tests, slowing the advance of damaging eye diseases, and pioneering techniques that may one day actually reverse the loss of sight.

The greatest enemies of sight in the coming decades will be age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. Caused by genetics, age, bright lights and unhealthy living, these eye diseases already darken the world for millions of people and cost billions of dollars.

AMD is one of the world’s leading causes of blindness, affecting one in seven Australians over the age of 50 at a cost of $2.6 billion per year. By 2030 it will rob an estimated 1.77 million Australians of their ability to read, drive, see in colour, recognise faces and perform activities that require detailed vision.

The acute form of AMD is “wet”. This results from the growth of new blood vessels at the back of the eye, and causes sudden loss of vision.

The more insidious “dry” AMD accounts for one-third of diagnosed cases and involves a slow, progressive loss of vision that is incurable. “Dry AMD kills the layer of cells in the back of our eyes – the retina,” says...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.