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Approved Research

Construction of a Normative Database of Human Retinal Thickness from Existing BioBank Participants

Principal Investigator: Mr Aaron Carass
Approved Research ID: 61229
Approval date: September 21st 2021

Lay summary

Imaging of the human eyes provides a unique insight into the health of the body.  Measuring the thicknesses of the retinal layers is beginning to serve as an important and readily accessible biomarker.  The changing thicknesses of the retinal layers over the course of normal human aging have been shown to be associated with changes in the brain.  These changes have been associated with numerous neurodegenerative diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and others.  Therefore it is important to we provide detailed measurements of the human retina across the BioBank participants.  In particular, highlighting the individual differences in the changing human retina and their correlations with the brain ageing process.  We hope, that by providing detailed measurements of the human retina across the BioBank participants, we can identify at risk patients and schedule secondary screening earlier.

Our primary goal is to provide a public database of the thickness of the human retina as well as the thicknesses of several of the tissue layers within the retina.  This will cover the full age range of available BioBank participants.  This database will cover the

subdivisions typically used by ophthalmologist in the retina; known as the ETDRS grid, which subdivides the retina into nine regions of interest.  Thus the database will provide location specific measures of normal thickness for the various retinal layers.  A secondary goal, will be exploring the potential of the ETDRS retinal thicknesses in identifying neurodegenerative diseases earlier.  This will be based on analysis of the retinal thicknesses as biomarkers for disease that will involve trying to formulate these biomarkers into a generalized disease progression score; similar to the Alzheimer's disease progression score (ADPS).  The ADPS is an approach for exploring the time-dependent changes of biomarkers related to Alzheimer's disease. The key idea being that different biomarkers change at different times and rates.  The change of no single biomarker identifies the onset of disease but the collection biomarkers may offer insight into the neurological health of a patient.  Our initial study is anticipated to take two years; with our database of retinal thicknesses being updated as the BioBank continues to enroll participants.

With our study, we hope to identify those who may be at risk of neurodegeneration.  Thus allowing disease modifying therapies to be introduced at any earlier stage--improving patient prognoses.