Dr Fred Chen established the Western Australia Retinal Degeneration (WARD) study in 2015, with the aim of examining factors that may influence retinal disease progression as measured by multimodal retinal imaging. Through the WARD study, patients with retinal diseases receive six-monthly assessments in Dr Chen’s clinic using high resolution structural and functional imaging techniques. Our clinical activities provide valuable information on disease progression and prepare patients for recruitment into clinical trials.
WARD patients donate blood and skin samples, which has led to the establishment of one of Australia’s largest retinal disease biobanks at the Lions Eye Institute. Patient-derived materials from the WARD Biobank support numerous projects examining the clinical consequences and molecular causes of various retinal diseases, both within the Lions Eye Institute and across Australia.
Additionally, Dr Chen’s Ocular Tissue Engineering Laboratory provides advanced cellular reprogramming and molecular analysis capabilities, allowing the production of patient-derived retinal tissues for research into the causes and potential treatment of these diseases.
Undergraduate and postgraduate students and junior doctors and trainees can contribute to this project through patient recruitment, retinal imaging and image analysis to measure disease progression rates. Numerous genetically characterised fibroblast and induced pluripotent stem cell lines are available for Honours, Masters and PhD programs in disease modelling and drug therapy development. There are also opportunities for exploring genotype-phenotype correlations of rare inherited retinal diseases.