Sharon Chua

1. Tell us about your journey into ophthalmology.

I have a degree in Optometry and I have worked as an optometrist in the clinic and also have taught on Optometry courses. In Singapore a lot of people (80%) have myopia, one of the highest rates in the world. Myopia is also called nearsightedness, a common vision condition in which you can see objects near to you clearly, but objects farther away are blurry. I started to wonder why so many people in Singapore were myopic, what risk factors may affect someone’s likely hood of developing myopia. For my PhD I decided to investigate the early life risk factors of myopia in young children. My PhD was a very rewarding experience. After completing my studies, I’ve started to look at age-related eye diseases.

2. What is your current research?

I am currently working on the UK Biobank. UK Biobank participants are helping to build a fantastic resource for studying diseases of the eye. Detailed images of the eye and other eye information were collected on around 100,000 participants who joined the study.

The UK Biobank allows us to investigate the genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors of a wide range of diseases of middle age and later life. In my current research, I examine how various environmental and lifestyle factors may increase the risk of eye diseases and the structures in the retina (the back of the eye). The Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) provides high resolution images of the nerves of the retina in a non-harmful way. It allows researchers and clinicians to gain deeper insights into the shape and structure of the retina and enables us to better understand the health and function of the eye.

This is a head shot of Sharon Chua. She is wearing a black shirt and is smiling at the camera. She is stood in front of a dark grey background.

3. Has your work been supported by the NIHR?

I am currently supported by the NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre.

4. What do you think the future holds for ophthalmology?

I believe that many exciting research discoveries will be made with the information in the UK Biobank. It holds great enormous potential for great discoveries. OCT imaging will allow researchers to examine the thickness of the individual retinal layers and better understand eye diseases. Clinicians may be able to diagnose any damage to the retina (retinopathies) in the early stages before it affects the ability of someone to carry out daily tasks. Large biobanks will offer researchers a vast source of data to conduct research which will lead to better strategies for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of diseases.