In a June 20, 2017 press release, it was announced that Dr. Shelby Temple, from the University of Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, has been named Innovator of the Year 2017 for his ground-breaking work into polarization and macular degeneration. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) award recognizes Dr Temple’s work in developing a device that can rapidly screen people at increased risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the worldwide leading cause of incurable blindness in people over 55. The innovation arose from BBSRC-funded research carried out at the University of Bristol, which looked at the ability of octopuses, cuttlefish, and coral reef fish to see polarized light - an aspect of light that humans aren’t typically aware they can see. Dr. Temple invented a series of unique devices to display polarized light to animals, and in doing so, realized he could see a pattern as well. “What I was seeing was an effect known as Haidinger’s brushes, which happens within the eye when people perceive polarized light. The ability to see this phenomenon is linked to an aspect of eye health and can be an early indicator of disease. “It became clear that the tools I had developed for octopuses and cuttlefish could be the foundation for a novel ophthalmic device that could rapidly screen people for susceptibility to AMD,” said Dr. Temple. This award acknowledges the important impact this device could have in preventing sight loss worldwide. In the UK alone, AMD affects more than 600,000 people and is estimated to cost the healthcare system £1.6 billion (~$2 billion) annually.
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