The Department of Eye and Vision Science, University of Liverpool, hosted a workshop for the Biomedical Applications Division of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3) on 22 May at the Liverpool Medical Institute organised by Professor Rachel Williams. The aim of the workshop was to bring together clinicians and engineers to combine their expertise to address issue in ophthalmology. Two key clinical areas of glaucoma and surface ocular disorders were chosen and in each section there were three speakers; a clinician, an engineer/scientist and a manufacturer. Professor Colin Willoughby, Clinical Professor in Department of Eye and Vision Science, University of Liverpool, described the disease profile of glaucoma, what the current treatment options are and what new strategies are required. Following this excellent starting point Professor Ahmed Elsheikh, School of Engineering, University of Liverpool, explained the design concepts for contact lenses that contain sensors capable of measuring intraocular pressure every time the wearer blinks. This presentation led on beautifully to a presentation from Mr John Clamp, from UltraVision CLPL, on how specialised lens, for example those with complex non-symmetrical curvatures, are manufactured. It was fascinating to learn how the patient specific data was written into the nanometre resolution lathing process. Following this group of three talks there was a very productive open discussion.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Professor Stephen Kaye, Clinical Professor in Department of Eye and Vision Science, University of Liverpool, giving a very clear presentation on the severe problems caused to patients with ocular surface diseases and the limitations of the current clinical options for treatment. This was followed by a very interesting presentation by Dr Isobel Massie from Department of Ocular Biology and Therapeutics, Institute of Ophthalmology, UCL on the development of plastic compressed collagen as a scaffold for corneal epithelial, stromal and endothelial cells as a corneal replacement therapy. Finally in this section Dr Don Wellings from SpheriTech Ltd reported on their peptide technology. He demonstrated how careful choice of peptide and cross linker can be used to tailor the properties of the material either to be a gel or a porous scaffold and where the potential of these materials is being investigated in a wide range of medical applications including ophthalmology. These three presentations again generated a very useful open discussion helping to develop much greater understanding between the different disciplines.
To aid the discussions the number of participants was limited to thirty but it was very pleasing that the full range of expertise was represented from clinicians to scientists and engineers. It was also very encouraging that several of the delegates travelled to the workshop from across the UK including Belfast, Bristol, Birmingham and London. It was an extremely enjoyable and informative event with discussions continuing late into the evening over wine and canapés. The general feedback has been that this approach is very useful and that more of this type of event should be encouraged.