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New director focuses on eye research


Brigid Veale
19 September 2007
Developing new materials for use in contact lenses has been a key research area for Associate Professor Carol Morris, the new director of Southern Cross University’s Centre for Phytochemistry and Pharmacology.

Professor Morris will this week head to Europe, where she will be a guest speaker at professional accreditation seminars for optometrists, ophthalmologists and opticians, in Utrecht in the Netherlands, London, Madrid, Paris and Moscow.

She has been involved in the commercial development of new contact lens materials at Cibavision Corporation, Atlanta, USA and in research through the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Vision for the past 14 years.

“I am a biochemist and my role in contact lens development has been to look for the effects of different materials on the eye and look at what the eye requires,” Professor Morris said.

“I worked with an international team on the development of an oxygen permeable material and Cibavsion Corporation have now got a product on the market which is a direct result of those research collaborations.

“That is also still being developed to cater for different forms of vision correction.”

She was also involved in research to develop a daily disposable contact lens that will be comfortable and cheap to manufacture.

Through the Centre for Phytochemistry and Pharmacology she hopes to continue research into the use of natural compounds in eye-care products. She will also continue her work on the use of tear fluid as a potential non-invasive diagnostic tool for monitoring health.

“We are looking at the chemistry of tears and the application of contact lenses as a collection device,” she said.

“Tear fluid is very similar in composition to saliva, but very different to serum. In the case of glucose, for example, it is present in tears but the concentration doesn’t exactly mimic that in blood. However, there are other molecules where you establish the correlation, and we want to pursue those.

“What is known, for instance, is that all drugs come across into the tear film and there is more and more interest in using non-invasive methods for monitoring drugs.”

Professor Morris said the preliminary research was looking at whether or not tear fluid could be used as an indicator for health and physiology, for example in areas such as fertility.

“I’m so pleased to be able to devote my time to the Centre. It is a fabulous resource for the University and has become one of Australia’s leading resources for the development of natural plant products in herbal medicine and food,” she said.

“It also has a strong international reputation, attracting visiting researchers and students from around the world.”

Photo: Associate Professor Carol Morris is the new director of the Centre for Phytochemistry and Pharmacology at the Lismore campus.