Glaucoma, a progressive neurodegenerative disease of the optic nerve, is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. Glaucoma was estimated to affect about 64.3 million people in 2013, and this number is projected to increase to a staggering 111.8 million by 2040, with the majority of afflicted patients residing in Asia. It is an incurable disease, but with treatment, many patients are able to maintain their vision. Unfortunately, approximately 20% of patients with glaucoma go blind. Population-based studies in Singapore have found that glaucoma is a major cause of visual impairment and blindness.
With a focus on reducing the rate of glaucoma-linked blindness, the researchers hope that efforts from the TARGET programme will bring about better quality of life for seniors even as they age. A 2000 study among selected residents in the Tanjong Pagar district in Singapore found that the prevalence of glaucoma was 3% to 4% and glaucoma contributed to 60% of bilateral blindness. In another Singapore Epidemiology of Eye Diseases study, glaucoma was among the top three causes of bilateral blindness. Advancing age is one of the key risk factors for glaucoma, and as Singapore navigates a rapidly ageing population, there will be an increasing healthcare burden of neurodegenerative diseases such as glaucoma in the coming years.
"The spectrum of glaucoma in Asia differs from that in the West, and with SNEC and SERI ranking second in the world for glaucoma research, Singapore is an ideal place to advance glaucoma research in Asia," said Professor Aung Tin, Chief Executive Officer, SNEC and Lead Principal Investigator for TARGET. "We are extremely grateful to the NRF and NMRC for the $25 million grant, which will help support our TARGET programme which we hope will decrease the rate of blindness caused by glaucoma in Singapore over the next decade. The team is passionate about this and we hope that our research can lead to improved patient care and cost savings for healthcare systems, not just in Singapore, but also in the region and beyond."