Stem cells can repair childhood cataracts

While cataracts are often thought of being a problem for the elderly, they are also a major cause of vision loss in infants. In both the elderly and in infants, surgery is the fix and involves removing the entire lens and replacing it with an artificial one or a transplanted lens. Unfortunately, cataract surgery can come with a myriad of complications and typically still require glasses afterwards.

But now, Chinese researchers have discovered the lens epithelial stem/progenitor cells (LECs) contained within the eye can continue to divide even in middle-aged adults. Armed with this knowledge, the researchers made a small incision rather than the usual large one that is required when inserting a replacement lens. This was done first on lab animals and when that turned out to be successful, they then tried the procedure on twelve infants.

Six months after the procedure, the visual acuity of the infants was as good as infants who had the traditional procedure. In addition, this new procedure dramatically reduced the most common complication of abnormal regrowth of residual LECs. Only one in twelve of the infants had that complication compared to 24 of the 25 control infants who had the traditional method.

Researchers hope that this successful human lens regeneration could lead to success in regrowth in adults as well.*

Family dog senses boy's visual impairment

Mark Cannon’s parents noticed that their French Mastiff, Alfie, had a peculiar habit of always placing himself on Mark’s right side whether it was just sitting by him or walking beside him. But this unusual habit made more sense after a trip to the eye doctor revealed that Mark had severe astigmatism in his right eye, which was so bad that if it had gone undiagnosed, he would have lost his vision completely in that eye.

Sharlene and Mark Cannon believe that Alfie instinctively knew of Mark’s vision impairment and was guiding and protecting the boy. Animal experts have only begun to scratch the surface regarding the ability of our canine friends to detect disease or disabilities.

What they do know and understand is that dogs have thousands to millions of times more ability than humans when it comes to the sense of smell. Dogs have been trained to detect low insulin in diabetics and the onset of seizures in epileptics so Alfie’s ability to sense Mark’s vision loss doesn’t seem that unbelievable at all.*

Omnifocals the lenses of the future

Israeli company Deep Optics is revolutionizing the eyeglasses industry with their patent-pending omnifocals. These liquid crystal lenses have the ability to change their optical power in real time unlike current multifocal eyeglasses. This enables the wearer to look in any direction without limiting the field of view or diminishing clarity.

These technologically advanced lenses are similar to the human focusing mechanism. The lenses work by utilizing a layer of transparent liquid crystal that can be changed by an electric current. The refractive index of the lens is then adjusted by this liquid. This in essence changes the prescription of the glasses based upon the distance of the object that’s being focused on.

Built-in sensors track the user’s pupils and determine the depth of the object being focused on and then a built-in processing unit calculates the distance between the user and the object and an electric current changes the liquid crystal layer to the correct prescription. This is all automatically done and the user doesn’t have to control any of it and he or she just simply looks through the glasses as they would any other eyeglasses.

Deep Optics hopes to have the omnifocals ready for human trials in two years and recently received $4M USD in venture capital to continue development of their technology.*

Cardio drug helpful in treating surfers eye

Researchers from Ariel University in Israel recently examined the affect the commonly prescribed cardiovascular drug, dipryidamole, had on treating pterygium, otherwise known as surfer’s eye.

Surfer’s eye is caused by a benign growth of the conjunctiva over the white of the eye. The condition is commonly found in surfers (hence, the name) but is more prevalent in older adults and causes inflammation and dry eye and can eventually obstruct vision completely.

Researchers were excited to discover that 25 patients treated with the dipyridamole drops had a maximum reduction of 54% in their Ocular Surface Disease Index over the course of the treatment. A few of the patients even had a complete resolution of their symptoms.

These study findings are encouraging because until now, the only available treatment for pterygium has been surgery that has a high recurrence rate. Researchers hope to begin clinical trials later this year.

Delayed dark reaction could be precursor to macular degeneration

A study published inOphthalmology points to a link between slowed rod-mediated dark adaptation and a higher incidence of age-related macular degeneration in adults who otherwise have a healthy macula. The results of this study indicate that a patient’s delayed dark adaptation could be the very first sign of macular degeneration.

The study involved 325 participants with an average age of 67.8 years. All of the participants had normal macular health to start with and they were monitored over the course of 3 years to document the incidence of AMD development. At the end of the study, researchers noted that 62 patients who had abnormal dark adaptation and were almost two times ore likely to develop macular degeneration compared to the patients that had normal dark adaptation.

Using delayed rod-mediated dark adaptation as an early indicator for the disease will allow doctors to intervene using dark adaptation as an outcome measure to prevent the onset of the disease in older adults. Researchers also suggested that dark adaptation testing be considered as an alternative endpoint to visual acuity testing.*