An evening with Moorfields - Canopes, Genetics & Art you can smell!


Wow, what a night!

I'd been looking forward to this for a while. I've always wondered where Moorfields were planning to take their research next. After abseiling in London, the Eye Hospital charity got in touch and invited me to their annual donors reception. Which sounded lovely! A drinks reception, a few cheeky canopes and onto a lecture. In all honesty, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. This was my first 'donors reception'. I've not quite established myself as a donor to any charities or establishments yet🙈, so I was excited!

The dress code was business/casual, since many Londoners would be commuting in from work. I had switched my primary care clinic, finished my morning lecture and was heading in from sunny Cardiff! How exotic. The evening was held at the Royal College of Physicians, an elegant building situated in the illustrious Regents Park, London. In my shiny new, 'business/casual' dress, 💃 I strolled across from the tube station, soaking in the class and white stone buildings that loomed over me. Busy locals dashed around as I navigated my new area. 

We were welcomed by the lovely Moorfields Eye Charity team, which I recognised from the abseil day! Always nice to see familiar faces, especially since I was attending alone! We were ushered through to collect our name badges before heading to the cloakroom - time for a quick shoe change. (Top tip ladies, heels are not so great for your feet or posture.. just ask your podiatrist! Always trainers then heels for show/Instagram ha!)

Yum, yum & yum!

On entering the drinks reception, we were greeted with beverages while various canopes circled the floor. I very rarely ever drink now, so it was water for me and many a canope. It's funny, you know you hear the comedian sets about eating at these types of events. The canopes float around, while you're deep in conversation, you try to catch their eye. Are they coming by? I'm totally scoping out that tray, but on the surface also seemingly uninterested by any offerings🙄...(unless within close proximity). Then as they appear, you act in a sort of disingenuous shock😮, oh for me? Fab, yes please! I'll take one of those. Of course, they're bite sized and intended as smalls treats. So really, you're talking about stalking the waiting staff rather persistently, if you've arrived on any kind of empty tank haha. Food is always king in my book, so we'll go there first. It was delicious🤤, they were so cleverly planned. Little bites of smoked salmon🤤,  with cream cheese, sitting on a pastry bed with sprigs of watercress. Mmmm, so tasty! Then a few tuna ones passed by and stopped, popped and rolled into my mouth🤤! I really enjoyed the mini roast dinners, or so I've aptly named them; a chunk of roast beef, tucked inside a crisp and timeless, tiny Yorkshire pudding🤤. I must make canopes one day😋!

Food aside, the actual optics was great! Dotted around the room were different exhibitions and displays. The coloured boxes from across the hall immediately caught my eye, 'What were they?' An exhibition that had featured in the London museum, Sensory exploration art was an interactive instalment by ophthalmologist, Dr Mariya Moosajee. The art is not only visual, but can be touched and smelled too! Dr Moosajee, later spoke about art being encased behind ropes and glass in most musuems. Which means very little to no interaction for the partially sighted. Very thought provoking. 

Red and white blood cells, which feel super soft!

Virtual reality seemed to be a running theme this year as it makes its way into the optical industry. Again demonstrating to family, friends or those just curious about diseases, how these pathologies actually impact vision loss and their effects. Of course, you could also illustrate what life would be like for patients who are dependent on glasses - to be without them! I spoke to Pete R Jones, PhD demonstrating the new tech and was really interested in the new visual tests for infants. Those patients who are only a few months old! Could you imagine all the cuteness in that clinic🤗! Working with Dr Matt Dunn from Cardiff university, they're developing a visual aid in which patients will view cartoons that switch to grating scales for vision. You could think of each grating as being 'equivalent' to different sized letters on a testing chart, while aiming to detect disease and pathology.

The lectures themselves were also very interesting. They spoke more about the research into genetics, currently being undertaken. It was amazing to see the gene therapy manipulation we're able to perform currently and where we're so close to going. We could detect and avoid visual diseases in unborn children, which begged the ethics of so called 'designer babies'. Also, when would modifying genes become upgrading... and even 'when do we just skip evolution and develop ourselves?' That was a shocker! Where do your thoughts lie on these?

There was also some really powerful footage of a young male (who I believe had Retinitis pigmentosa, but don't quote me - I may be wrong on his pathology.) who was unable to go out in the evenings and enjoy time with his friends - because his night vision was so poor. Entering and trying to navigate a simulated obstacle maze took him over 1 minute initially, with over 8 collisions and with the aid of 2 helpers. After the course of trial drugs, he was able to complete the course in 15 seconds, no collisions and no help. The audience burst into applause. There are no words other than, magical😊

That concluded my evening with Moorfields and I sincerely hope to attend again in the future and see what else they bring to the world of optics.

Until next time ... Erica xo

P.s - I'm waiting for the video to finish uploading! I'll update you when it's published! xx

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  1. Retinitis pigmentosa is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes server to profound vision impairments including blindness. The condition is highly variable with some people showing symptoms in childhood and others are not aware of their condition until later in life. Necessary to take retinitis pigmentosa treatment