Page 6 - envision01-2021
P. 6

Cover Story

                                                    By JoAnne Sommers


                                               in the Time of COVID

                     or medical research, as with every other aspect of life, 2020 was a  public of the importance of science and
                     year like no other.                                     what scientists do. And people are starting
                                                                             to follow the scientific literature and
                     The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted clinical trial research across  keeping abreast of research, which is a
              F the globe, as thousands of trials were suspended or stopped   good thing.”
                     because of lockdowns. The pandemic also caused an unprecedented
               reorientation in research towards finding an effective COVID vaccine.   While the pandemic continues, ongoing
                                                                             vaccination efforts are bringing hope that
               The disruption and the shift in   currently on hold because of the   life may begin to return to something
               resources to address the pandemic  pandemic. They were studying the   closer to normal in the coming months. In
               mean that the effects of COVID-19  impact of brain stimulation of the   the  meantime,  here  are  three  eye-related
               will reverbate  in the research field  visual cortex to reduce the effects of   research stories with a Canadian
               for years to come. The research  age-related macular degeneration.  connection that are worth celebrating.
               work discussed in this feature offers                         BRAIN STIMULATION FOR AMD
               two examples. Dr. May Griffith, the  Fortunately, the news is not all
               Montreal-based researcher  whose  bleak.                      Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
               multinational  team  developed                                is the leading causes of blindness in
               LiQD Cornea, an alternative to    “During the first lockdown when   industrialized countries. Now, researchers
               conventional corneal transplantation,    no one was able to travel, researchers   from the University of Waterloo’s School
               says their work was shut down for   from all over the world started to    of Optometry have found that brain
               four months in 2020 because of    interact,” says Dr. Griffith. “Meetings,    stimulation of the visual cortex can reduce
               COVID.                         e-seminars and conferences took   the effects of the disease. The discovery
                                              place  online,  and researchers  and   could  eventually  help  those  affected  to
               “We’ve gradually increased to 75 per  students world-wide attended.”  recover their vision.
               cent capacity but it slowed down the
               process by about a year,” she says.  Another silver lining is the increased   Patients with AMD lose their central
                                              collaboration among scientists,   vision and must rely on peripheral vision
               The promising work of Dr. Ben  beginning with the cooperation of  for their daily activities. However,
               Thompson and his team at the  virologists and researchers working  peripheral vision is prone to crowding: an
               University of Waterloo’s School of  on COVID treatments. “There’s also  inability to distinguish between objects or
               Optometry and Vision Science, is  greater awareness from the general  letters that are close together.

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