General Vision and
Eye News Archive for 2011
...continued from Current Eye News
Changing Bioelectric Signals Can Spur Tadpoles to Grow an Eye in Other Parts of Their Body
December 2011 Scientists have discovered a way to stimulate cells in tadpoles to grow into functioning eyes.
By manipulating membrane voltage of cells in the back and tail, they can cause the eyes to develop in areas where they would not normally grow.
The researchers hypothesized that a specific voltage range exists for stimulating the development of each particular structure in the body, even an organ as complex as an eye.
Changing the bioelectric voltage in an embryonic frog cell in a tadpole's back caused the cell to develop into a functioning eye (see closeup). (Image: Michael Levin and Sherry Aw)
In the tadpoles they changed the voltage gradient of cells in the back and tail to match that of the creatures' normal eye cells.
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"This suggests that cells from anywhere in the body can be driven to form an eye," commented Vaibhav Pai, PhD in a press release.
Dr. Pai is the first author of the report on this research, which appeared online in the journal Development in December.
He speculated that future uses of this technology may include growing organs for transplantation and repairing birth defects, including those that affect vision.
Parent Alert: 2011's Worst Toys for Young Eyes
December 2011 World Against Toys Causing Harm (W.A.T.C.H.) has published its "10 Worst Toys of 2011," and we are reporting on two of them here because of their potential to harm your child's eyes.
The "Gigan" Godzilla figure by Bandai shows an age recommendation of 4+ years on the packaging, but most parents would probably not think their young child can handle this toy without the possibility of penetrating injuries from the pointed fins, wings and knife-like attachments on the arms.
The figure is made of rigid plastic, so if a child pokes himself or a playmate in the eye with one of these sharp protrusions, a serious eye injury could result.
Another toy on the W.A.T.C.H. list that could cause eye and other impact injuries is the Jack Sparrow action figure by Jakks Pacific. Again, this toy has an age recommendation of 4+, yet Jack holds a 4.5-inch pointy sword of rigid plastic that, with the push of a lever, moves upward so a child can pretend the figure is sword fighting.
Although the packaging warns of a choking hazard from the included small parts, it doesn't warn against eye injuries.
Since toy manufacturers continue to show incredibly bad judgment regarding age recommendations on their packaging, the burden is on you to be smart and not allow your young child to play with toys that could cause eye injury and even vision loss.
Unusually Acute Vision Discovered in Ancient Marine Predator
December 2011 Scientists have found fossilized eyes of a large ocean predator from more than 500 million years ago and concluded that the meter-long creature had very acute vision.
Artist's conception of an anomalocaris (see closeup). (Image: Katrina Kenny, University of Adelaide)
The animal was at the top of the earth's food chains at that time because of its relatively large size (it was a meter long), the claws at the front of its head and its circular mouth with razor-sharp serrations.
Called an anomalocaris, it had stalked eyes with multiple facets, similar in design to those of flies and crabs. The eyes were among the largest ever, at up to 3 centimeters, and they contained more than 16,000 lenses. The scientists noted that only a few arthropods, including modern dragonflies, can see with such clarity.
The fossils were found on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. An article about the discovery appeared in the December issue of Nature.
How to Survive Losing Vision, by Helen Harris
November 2011 Retinitis pigmentosa took away Helen Harris's vision, but it didn't take away her determination to improve her life and the lives of others with vision loss due to retinal disease.
In How to Survive Losing Vision, Ms. Harris describes how retinitis pigmentosa (RP) gradually reduced her peripheral vision until she became completely blind. She tells how those around her didn't know that she had RP, how she dealt with the news and when she finally overcame her resistance to using a cane.
The book is full of encouraging words for people with vision loss. To order the book, please click here.
Can We Change Eye Color With Surgery?
November 2011 A company called Stroma Medical is developing a way to turn brown eyes blue permanently, using a laser.
How it works exactly is unclear, but it has been reported that the laser releases the brown pigments from the iris, and what's left is a blue color that develops over a couple of weeks. One downside may be that the iris color afterward can't be accurately predicted.
The procedure is not FDA-approved and will require more testing before U.S. availability is possible. A potential safety question is, what happens to the released pigments within the eye?
Long Periods Spent in Microgravity Cause
Vision Problems for Astronauts
November 2011 Being in space for six months or more can change the eyes, causing blurry vision and changes in eye pressure. This is according to a study that found astronauts experiencing blurriness that persisted long after their space flights were over.
In this artist's conception of the future, an astronaut gathers samples on the Martian surface. Plans for such long-duration manned missions will need to take into account the vision changes that can occur during space flights. (Image: NASA)
The study was of seven astronauts who were around 50 years old and had spent at least six months in space continuously. All seven said their vision had become blurry while on the space station, with the onset beginning about six weeks after launch.
The researchers said that the vision problems seemed unrelated to launch or re-entry, since they occurred only in those who spent a long time in weightless or nearly weightless conditions.
The eye abnormalities included flattening of the back of the eyeball, folds in the choroid and excess fluid around the optic nerve. The researchers hypothesized that causes could be abnormal flow of spinal fluid around the optic nerve, changes in choroid blood flow or chronic low pressure inside the eye.
Since changes varied from one astronaut to another, the researchers hope to learn whether some astronauts are less affected by microgravity and would be better suited for a long trip such as a mission to Mars.
The issue of near vision problems in space is not a new discovery. In fact, "space anticipation glasses" have been kept on all spacecraft since John Glenn was an astronaut.
The study, which NASA sponsored, was reported in the November issue of Ophthalmology.
"Eyes of War" Online Exhibit Honors
Ophthalmologists of World War II
November 2011 In recognition of Veteran's Day, the Museum of Vision is offering an online exhibit called "The Eyes of War," which describes sacrifices and contributions that ophthalmologists made during World War II.
The Museum of Vision, a part of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, originally created the exhibit in honor of the 60th anniversary of VE Day but is featuring it again this month.
An estimated 3 percent of all World War II battle casualties had eye injuries, and 15,000 soldiers were blinded.
The exhibit includes details of how eye doctors were called to the front lines and forward hospitals, in response to the problem of injured soldiers having to wait 36 to 48 hours before they could be examined by an ophthalmologist.
During that war, eye doctors emphasized that proper eye protection might prevent most eye injuries, and innovations resulted. Another wartime discovery was that the same material being used in airplane canopies (PMMA or Perspex) could also be used in intraocular lenses or IOLs for implantation during cataract surgery. PMMA is still used today in certain IOLs.
For more photographs, history and personal stories, please click here to visit "The Eyes of War" online exhibit.
Thanks to Macaque Monkeys, a Trachoma Vaccine
May Be Finally Within Reach
October 2011 A vaccine to prevent or reduce the effects of trachoma may be available soon, thanks to a study involving macaque monkeys.
Trachoma is a chronic eye and eyelid infection that causes the eyelids to scar and eventually turn inward. This causes the eyelashes to irritate the surface of the eye, which can harm and even destroy vision. Trachoma is the most common cause of infectious blindness worldwide.
Antiobiotics can treat the infection, but these drugs are not widely available in developing countries of Asia and Africa, and since trachoma tends to recur, a vaccine is sorely needed.
Researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health tested a weakened strain of Chlamydia trachomatis bacteria as a possible vaccine in the monkeys. Two weeks after the animals were exposed to the weakened bacteria, they cleared the infection. After two more exposures at four- and eight-week intervals, the macaques still didn't show signs of trachoma.
Even when the macaques were exposed to a highly virulent strain of the bacteria, they either did not develop an infection or had a much weaker infection compared with macaques in a control group.
The macaques were tested because their immune responses are very similar to those of human beings. When the study ended, all were treated with antibiotics and recovered completely, according to the researchers. The scientists are now considering human clinical trials.
A report of the study appeared on The Journal of Experimental Medicine website this month.
Raised, Yellow Patches on Eyelids Could Indicate Heart Problems
September 2011 Do you have raised, yellowish patches on your upper or lower eyelids? If so, you may have a higher risk for cardiovascular problems and you should get a comprehensive physical exam, says a recent study of 12,745 people in the Copenhagen City Heart Study.
These patches (the medical term for them is xanthelasmata) are actually cholesterol deposits, and so are those small white or gray rings that can appear around the cornea (arcus corneae). But according to researchers at the University of Copenhagen, about half of people who have either or both conditions don't show high cholesterol in a blood test.
In the study, men between 70 and 79 who had xanthelasmata had a 53 percent increased risk of having a heart attack, developing heart disease or dying within a 10-year period, versus a 41 percent risk for those without xanthelasmata. For women, the figures were 35 percent versus 27 percent.
However, the presence of arcus corneae was not significant in predicting heart attack or heart disease. Findings appeared in September on the British Medical Journal website.
New Book Helps People Considering Surgical Removal
of an Eye or Coping With the Loss of an Eye
August 2011 The loss of an eye can be very difficult to accept or cope with. Eye Was There: A Patient's Guide to Coping with the Loss of an Eye is a new book that helps people who are facing eye removal surgery or who have already lost an eye to understand the medical conditions that may require eye removal, the surgical procedures involved, recovery and how to deal with life's challenges afterward.
Eye Was There also describes artificial eyes and orbital prostheses, including historic and current information on how they are made, plus advice on their care and handling.
Perhaps most importantly, the book describes the emotional and psychological impact that someone who loses an eye would experience. The book is useful not only for patients, but also for family members, friends and caretakers.
Eye Was There was written by ophthalmologist Charles B. Slonim, MD, with third-year resident Amy Z. Martino, MD. A well-known expert in ophthalmic plastic and reconstructive surgery, Dr. Slonim is also a member of the All About Vision Editorial Advisory Board. Read his bio on this website.
Currently the book is available in paperback and various electronic book formats, including Kindle. Please click here for more information.
American Optometric Association Video Presents the Facts About Eye Strain From Computers in the Classroom
August 2011 Computer eye strain is affecting just about everyone, including kids. A new video by Dr. James Sheedy and the American Optometric Association addresses concerns parents may have about whether viewing 3-D computer presentations in particular could be causing eye strain or other vision-related problems.
The video explains that the "3Ds of 3D viewing" are the eye strain symptoms you should be watching out for. Watch the video for more information on computer eye strain in the classroom.Watch the video for more information on computer eye strain in the classroom.
Have You Benefited From Vision Therapy? Video Contest Lets You Share Your Story With People Around the World
July 2011 If you or your child had vision therapy and experienced improvement in focusing and other visual skills, you can tell others about it by entering the Visions of Hope video contest.
Sponsored by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), the contest aims to show how certain vision problems can be improved or overcome with vision therapy.
Examples include vision deficits among people with traumatic brain injury and a lack of focusing ability that makes it difficult for some children to read and learn.
Shown here is a video made by Robin Benoit about her daughter Jillian, a Harry Potter fan who reports that after her vision therapy she was able to read her favorite books more easily and improve her grades at school.
To submit your own video to the Visions of Hope contest, just visit COVD's Facebook page by August 10. Others will view the entries and vote for the best one, which will be announced later in August.
Packing for a Trip? New iPhone App Won't Let You Forget Your Sunglasses
June 2011 The Vision Council has released a free iPhone app called PackLists that helps you create a quick list of the clothes and other things you'll need for a trip.
It lets you make lists for yourself and for others, and when you enter your travel dates and destination it also includes information on the current UV exposure levels in that city.
The idea behind the app is to remind you to bring your sunglasses when you travel. The app also presents information about harmful UV light that you might not have known before.
PackLists is available for the iPhone, the iPod Touch and the iPad. You can preview it here.
Oxygen Therapy Helps Heal Chemical and Thermal Burns in the Eyes
June 2011 Applying oxygen to burned eyes helped them to heal better and faster in a study.
Scientists at the Department of Ophthalmology, Ahvaz Jundishapur University of Medical Sciences, treated 24 eyes of 22 patients with acute chemical and thermal burns in their eyes. Thirteen of the eyes also received oxygen therapy an oxygen mask applied over the eyes for one hour, twice a day.
In the oxygen therapy group, injuries on the surface of the eye healed in 10 to 21 days, vs. 28 to 95 days in the group that didn't receive oxygen. Blood vessels healed in 10 to 21 days in the oxygen group, vs. 25 to 105 days for the others.
The oxygen group had more transparent corneas with less redness three and six months afterward and regained better visual acuity after healing. Symblepharon (when the eyelid adheres to the eyeball) didn't occur in the oxygen group, but it did in three eyes of the other group.
The study report appeared in the American Journal of Ophthalmology in May.
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[Page updated May 2014]
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