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Ophthalmology and Vision Sciences

Research activities

Ocular Genetics and Retinoblastoma  |  NeuroVision |  Surgical Innovation/Ocular Reconstruction



Our research activities are led by physician-scientists, scientists and expert clinicians who are an integral part of our department as well as global leaders in their fields. Our goals are to understand the causes of different eye disorders, to discover new treatments that will improve and save vision, and to apply these new discoveries into clinical practice in a timely manner. 

We collaborate with other divisions and departments at SickKids on numerous research projects using a multidisciplinary approach. We have an excellent track record of research productivity and research funding. Our physician-scientists are the recipients of numerous grants and awards. Among these, Dr. Agnes Wong holds the John and Melinda Thompson Chair in Vision Neurosciences, while Dr. Elise Héon holds the Mira Godard Chair for Vision Research. Dr. Brenda Gallie was awarded the Order of Ontario. 

We have three active pillar programs:

Ocular Genetics and Retinoblastoma Program

The goals of this program are two-fold: (1) to optimize the diagnostic opportunities through genetic testing, which lead to improved disease management; and (2) to increase our understanding of the biological processes of genetically characterized disorders. We work with the NeuroVision program very closely to better understand various aspects of visual processing. This program is a good example of translational research that brings molecular biology knowledge from the laboratory to bedside in order to improve patient outcomes.

We lead a multicentre, international clinical trial testing our retinoblastoma protocol, conducting numerous outcome assessments projects, and performing basic science investigations on retinoblastoma. In addition, we perform genotype-phenotype correlation studies and mutational analysis, as well as develop and implement a national registry for retinal dystrophies. These efforts have enabled us to participate in the earliest clinical trials of novel therapeutic interventions.

NeuroVision Program

The aim of NeuroVision is to study neuro-visual function from the retina to the most advanced stages of brain processing by using state-of-the-art techniques and research expertise. Currently, no other centre has the expertise and availability, under one roof, to use sophisticated electrophysiology, eye movement recordings, behavioral measures, and neuroimaging to study visual processing in children. The unique clinical environment at SickKids allows us to access a large number of children affected with common and rare eye diseases. Our integrated clinical-research approach ensures clinical questions guide our research directions, while new knowledge revolutionizes the assessment and treatment of visual and neurological disorders in children. 

We are actively investigating the neural mechanisms of amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (eye misalignment), and abnormal eye movements. We are also very active in determining sophisticated electrophysiological markers of drug toxicity on the retina and of the earliest signs of complications from diabetes.

Surgical Innovation/Ocular Reconstruction Program

The goal of this program is to promote technological innovations to preserve sight. We develop new techniques and adapt existing adult technologies for the paediatric population in ophthalmic diagnostic and surgery. 

Current projects include the: 

    1. Corneal Endothelial Cell Project to determine the health of the corneal endothelium in children while undergoing general anesthesia; 
    2. Corneal Neurotization Innovation Project to allow restoration of corneal sensation through nerve-grafting techniques, the first known paediatric use of this technique; and 
    3. Excimer Laser Refractive Surgery Project to perform refractive correction under general anesthetic to children with developmental delay and autism, and/or with amblyopia.

Learn more about Research at SickKids.

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