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From Stem Cells, Gene Editing, to AI and Animal Perception–The ‘Back-End’ of Vision Research Takes Center Stage at ARVO 2024: Day One Round-Up

It’s on here in Seattle for ARVO 2024, and in truly momentous fashion. Thousands of delegates from around the world have converged on the Emerald City for the world’s premier vision research event—and we’ve got all the Day One highlights.

The 2024 Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO 2024) has begun, and the hottest technology and research in eye care has brought the heat to a cold and rainy Day One at the Seattle Convention Centre Arch building. 

Though the doors swung open at 7:00 am sharp on this damp Seattle spring morning, the registration crowds by 7:30 were still thick and thrumming in the Arch building’s verdant Atrium. And that seems to be the second most talked-about theme of the conference so far: The sheer number of people this year is unprecedented; ARVO is officially one of the marquee events of the yearly ophthalmic calendar. 

The most talked-about theme, of course, has been the dazzling display of research on offer. From electrifying symposia to an awe-inspiring opening keynote lecture by a Pulitzer Prize-winning science journalist, Day One at ARVO 2024 hit the ground running. Let’s break it down.

Early birds flock to morning symposia

The crowds packing the halls of the Atrium dispersed slowly into a morning round of symposia, and this is where the raw size of this year’s 2024 guest list truly revealed itself. 

The symposia topics ranged from cellular dynamics in ophthalmology to a star-studded session on the future of AI in ophthalmology featuring National Eye Institute (United States) director Dr. Michael Chiang and prominent AI researcher Dr. Pearse Keane, among many others. 

The latter session was focused on current and future considerations for artificial intelligence in ophthalmology, and tackled essential topics like the ethics and challenges of clinical applications and the transformative potential of the tech for the lives of everyday patients. 

One of our highlight sessions was also among these morning symposia, where attendees lined the walls to get a glimpse of the latest advances in treating neurodegenerative diseases, from stem cells to gene editing. You don’t want to miss the full details of one of Day One’s most riveting sessions, so be sure to give that a read. 

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist wows at Opening Keynote

The Day’s main event, however, was unquestionably the ARVO/Alcon Opening Keynote in the Arch building’s cavernous Ballroom. Not one chair was left unfilled as 2023-2024 ARVO President Dr. Patricia d’Amore (USA) got things started with a humorous skit and ode to Seattle and its famous fish markets. 

But it was all business from there as Dr. D’Amore announced, to thunderous applause, the shocking official attendance for ARVO 2024: over 11,000 delegates registered. Among them are the many beneficiaries of the ARVO Foundation’s generosity and mission to break down barriers in making advancements in vision care a truly worldwide and equitable endeavor. 

After an inspiring video about some of these recipients and a moving reflection on ARVO’s purpose, it was time to introduce the Opening Keynote Speaker, Ed Yong (UK), a Pulitzer-Prize winning science journalist. 

But before that, one of the Day’s more memorable moments: A giveaway of Mr. Yong’s latest book, An Immense World, involved vouchers being taped to the underside of select seats in the audience. Also on the underside of all seats were fire safety labels and stickers, and the resulting search for a voucher led to every one of these being feverishly clawed off of the seats as collateral damage. 

Mr. Yong’s speech on animal vision systems was a tour through the wonder, weirdness and diversity of the sense of sight in our world. It was truly can’t miss, and also happens to be another of our Day One highlight sessions, so be sure to check that article out. 

Afternoon expression sessions and a wrap for Day One 

Lunch saw a barrage of dozens of paper sessions, poster sessions and symposia. Among the standouts were the WEAVR Drop-In Mentoring Program, where younger researchers could go to talk shop with some of the biggest names in eye care research, and a Vice President Session, Understanding the initial stages of diabetic eye disease.

The symposium, curated by ARVO Vice President Dr. Stephen Burns, saw a series of talks on the state of the art in these ailments, as well as the future use of the eye as a biomarker for the systemic progression of diabetic eye disease. 

One talk that provoked a lively Q&A was Dr. Amani Fawzi (USA) and her work on advanced imaging, including adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscopy (AOSLO). She discussed the advantages of this technology, especially when compared with the limitations of OCT-A, and argued for the potential this imaging modality has for understanding the genesis, progression, and effects of diabetic retinopathy (DR).

Dr. Yali Jia followed with another fascinating presentation on AI-enhanced OCT-A scans, where she showed how AI can be used to detect non perfused capillaries using denoising and evaluate microaneurysms, among others. 

Many more talks followed Dr. Jia’s, both during this symposium and as the day wound on. After a full day of serious vision science, buses began arriving to whisk attendees off to the Sunday Social, and into the sunset (if there were actually sun, that is) for this massive opening day for ARVO 2024.

And with that, our Day One coverage is over. But there’s plenty more where that came from tomorrow, with all-new highlight sessions fresh for your reading pleasure. Stay tuned to our socials and we’ll see you tomorrow again, with more daily reporting from ARVO 2024 in Seattle.

Editor’s Note: The Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO 2024) is being held from 5-9 May in Seattle, Washington, USA. Reporting for this story took place during the event. 

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Zain Zain
Zain Zain
2 months ago