Volunteers sought for ‘super-vision’ Study in WIT


Research project investigates if people can see in ‘HD’

The Macular Pigment Research Group (MPRG), based in South East Technological University (WIT) has been researching the links between nutrition and eyesight for over a decade. Their studies indicate that they may be able to generate “super vision”, enabling people with normal eyesight to see in “high-definition (HD)” by taking food supplements derived from marigold flowers.

The group is recruiting 120 volunteers with normal vision (no eye disease) to take part in this scientific study. Those who are short- or long-sighted and wear glasses or contact lenses are eligible to take part. 

Dr. John Nolan, Principal Investigator of the MPRG, explained: “Macular pigment, found in the retina (back of the eye), filters harmful blue light and is an anti-oxidant that protects the eye.  People are not born with macular pigment but get it from eating fruit and vegetables. Certain supplements can enrich macular pigment levels because they contain the three naturally-occurring plant pigments known as lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin which make up macular pigment. We believe that improving macular pigment levels with supplements will positively affect eyesight and visual performance.

“The aim of this study is to take what is normally accepted as ‘good’ vision and enhance it so people can see more vividly in everyday life. Improved image contrast would, for example, help their ability to see road signs and computer screens, and reducing the effects of glare on vision would improve comfort and visual performance.

“This study could have a dramatic impact on many people’s lives.  In sports, protection from the negative effects of bright light and glare, which include physical and mental fatigue, could mean the difference between winning and losing. It could also impact on those who rely on their vision in specialised professions such as pilots, drivers and machine operators,” he said.

“WIT’s sports teams have really got behind us with players from the hurling and camogie teams scheduled to visit us for testing in the coming weeks. We believe the research findings could be a significant boost for sports stars and hope that many will benefit from our work. We have already recruited a small number of people including a commercial pilot, farm machine operators and a night-time lorry driver.

“This scientific study is a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trial.  Each volunteer will be asked to take a capsule every day. Some will take placebos (‘dummy’ capsule containing sunflower oil) and some will take the supplement (with the macular pigments). These supplements are safe and are provided free of charge.  Neither the volunteer nor the researcher will know who has received the placebo or active supplement until the study ends. This ensures that the study is conducted without bias.

“To find out if people are suitable to participate we will test the quality of their vision and their macular pigment level. If recruited, they will visit the world-renowned Vision Research Centre at SETU four times over the course of the 12 month study. Each visit will take around two and a half hours, during which time the researchers will perform “gold-standard” vision tests. None of the vision tests are invasive. Volunteers are not paid, and are free to leave the study at any time.

“Eye health will be intensely inspected and monitored, and at the end of the study participants will be given full results from all the tests performed and will have the opportunity to learn about their eye health and visual performance. We anticipate that this study will benefit society by helping to identify if simple changes to nutrition can enhance visual performance and experience," he said.

The Vision Research Centre in Carriganore House on WIT’s West Campus is the only research facility of its kind in the world. It has a team of 10 full-time researchers including vision scientists, nutritionists, biochemists, statisticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists.

In 2011, Dr. Nolan was awarded €1.5 million from the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) for his research into the role of nutrition for visual performance and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the world’s leading cause of age-related blindness thought to affect up to 80,000 people in Ireland.  Later this year, the team will commence a study to determine if the macular pigment food supplements can improve vision for those with AMD.

Sign Up Today
For more details about this project or to volunteer please visit www.mprg.ie, email [email protected] or call Sarah O’Regan on 051 845505.

Vision Screening Event
This event is over but please call the number above for more information on participating in this study.
The MPRG team is hosting a public information and screening day on Saturday 13 October from 11am - 4 pm in City Square Shopping Centre, Waterford City Centre. All are welcome to attend to learn more about the study and meet the researchers.

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