Entries in eyes (13)


Tadpoles ‘See’ Through Eyes Implanted in Their Tails

Douglas J. Blackiston and Michael Levin(NEW YORK) -- Researchers have implanted eyes in the tails of otherwise-sightless tadpoles, and report in a new study that they had some success in getting them to see, or at least detect colored light through them.

The findings, they say, may mean big things in the study of the nervous systems of other animals and even humans.

“The body stores information about its geometric shape and configuration of organs,” said Michael Levin of Tufts University in an email to ABC News.  “This study was the first in our effort to understand how the brain and nervous system interact with this anatomical information network. We wanted to know if the brain can use data from organs in aberrant locations, so we grafted cells that will make an eye from one embryo (the donor) to another one’s tail.”

Levin is the director of Tufts’ Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology.  He and his co-author, post-doctoral fellow Douglas Blackiston, will have their research published in the March 15 edition of The Journal of Experimental Biology.

So, how exactly was the study conducted?

When a donor eye was grafted to the tail of a tadpole, researchers made note of how the nerves of the eye would grow and attach to the tissue around them.  In some cases, the nerves would attach -- or innervate -- to the spine of the tadpole, sometimes the stomach, and sometimes the eye did not attach itself at all.

A test was then conducted to determine whether the implanted eyes actually worked.  The tadpoles were placed in a round chamber with blue light on one side and red on the other.  If they swam toward the red light, they got a tiny electric shock.  Soon, some of the tadpoles learned to swim toward the blue area -- something they would have been unable to do unless they could sense the difference in color.

The tadpoles that successfully avoided the red light were ones whose implanted eyes had connected to the spine, part of the nervous system.  If the implanted eye made nerve connections to the stomach, or none at all, the tadpole swam aimlessly -- showing it could not tell the difference between red and blue.

Levin said the experiment could have implications for regenerative medicine -- “replacing damaged organs with new, properly innervated, functional ones” -- or augmenting the senses -- “maybe you want an extra eye, one that sees in infra-red or UV perhaps?”  He said it might help in the understanding of how bodies evolve, and maybe in the design of future robots.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


New Technology Lets People Write With Their Eyes

JupiterImages/Comstock(NEW YORK) -- Patients without the ability to use their limbs may have a new way to communicate, thanks to researchers in France. This offers hope to sufferers of strokes, spinal injuries, or degenerative diseases such as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease, who may be left without the ability to type, pick up a pen, or even speak.

The researchers developed a system that allows users to write in cursive on a video monitor using only their eyes. Dr. Jean Lorenceau of the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris has developed a method for translating eye movements into writing on a screen, and by doing so has simultaneously advanced possibilities for patients and solved a tricky puzzle posed by biology. The results are in today's issue of the journal Current Biology.

Lorenceau's device overcomes a difficult physiological problem called saccadic eye movements. If you try to move your gaze smoothly across a stationary object, you will will instead find your eyes "saccading," or jumping from one point to another. So-called smooth-pursuit eye movements are reserved by our bodies for following moving objects. This is normal, but presents problems for researchers trying to devise methods of eye writing, just as a constantly jerking hand would severely hamper someone trying to write with a pen.

Dr. Lorenceau's technique bamboozles the body's own circuitry by using a flickering screen. It tricks the brain into thinking the eyes are following a moving object. The device then uses known eye motion-detection technology to translate these movements into smooth cursive writing, fully controlled by the subject.

Other devices for communicating solely with the eyes do exist. They're less ambitious -- they let a user select choices from a menu in sequence rather than write -- but Lorenceau says they work well. However, he points out that users' ability to create something themselves is unique to his device.

"Maybe more important is the fact that cursive eye writing provides personal and creative means of expression," Lorenceau said. Furthermore, it allows people to achieve shades of meaning not available on a menu. "What if the figure you wish to draw is not in this repertoire," he said, "[such as] the drawing of a heart to indicate you love something?"

Lorenceau has just been selected by the French National Research Agency to partner with a physician caring for ALS patients in developing his device further, as well as a company to continue to develop the device and a programmer to develop software for cursive eye writing recognition.

But Lorenceau sees uses for his device beyond helping those unable to write on their own. "A training program could be helpful for children with oculomotor deficits or [even] athletes [or] artists and is therefore not necessarily exclusively to be used by patients unable to move their limbs," he said. "Although speculative, these ideas will be tested in the near future."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Black Eyed Peas Star Gets Vision Back

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As a member of the Grammy Award-winning group the Black Eyed Peas, has rocked a million faces, but he hasn’t seen them all. The 37-year-old Filipino-American rapper, drummer and record producer was born with a condition known as nystagmus, which  is characterized by an involuntary movement of the eyes that limits vision.

In’s case, the nystagmus causes his eyeballs to vibrate.  The vibration combined with his nearsightedness makes the singer, whose birth name is Allan Pineda Lindo Jr., legally blind. When he performs in front of thousands of cheering fans, all can see is the first five rows of fans and only the shapes of his bandmates Taboo, Fergie and

“I can’t see the facial detail,” he told ABC News.  “I go by the sound of your voice or somehow I get some tentacles that I can feel when someone is there.”

“I do measurements in my head,” he explained of how he pulls off the band’s complicated dance moves and stage performances.  “When I picture the stage, I already have the picture in the middle so when I’m break dancing I just picture that square in my head. And I just go for it.”

After spending his entire life working within the limitations of his disability, decided to undergo an operation that would implant an artificial lens into each of his eyes to correct both his nearsightedness and his nystagmus.

The singer turned to Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler of the Boxer Wachler Vision Institute in Beverly Hills, Calif., to complete the procedure.

“This is going to be one of the most challenging surgeries I’ve ever done because I am working with a moving target,” Dr. Boxer Wachler told ABC News just prior to the surgery on July 10.  “I have to do very delicate maneuvers in order to make the entry point and position the lens inside the eye.”

During the 40-minute procedure, Dr. Boxer Wachler inserted a new lens into each of’s eyes, all while the singer lay awake.

After the surgery was over, the singer emerged from the operating room with a far clearer vision of his joyful mother. Prior to the surgery he’d said the ability to see his mom more than 10 feet away would be, “the happiest time and day of my life.”

“The fuzziness has already gone away,” he said as he hugged his mom.  “Wow, it’s like I have my contacts.”

One week later, was back in the recording studio and reporting even greater progress from the surgery.

“I can see a lot more details in faces,” he said.  “I can actually see people from a distance now.  I can see almost 100 feet away, before I couldn’t see that.”’s eyesight will only continue to improve as he adjusts to the lenses inside his eyes, according to Boxer Wachler.

“It wasn’t as scary as I thought,” said.  “I just felt a little pressure on my eyes.  It was easy, simple.  It’s definitely a great success.”

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Direction of Eye Movements May Not Indicate Lying

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Your eyes may not say it all when it comes to lying, according to a new study.

Despite the common belief that shifty eyes -- moving up and to the right -- indicate deception, researchers found no connection between where the eyes move and whether a person is telling the truth.

In three separate experiments, they tested whether people who lied tended to move their eyes up and to the right, more than people who were not lying.  They found no association between which direction the eyes moved and whether participants were telling the truth.

"This is in line with findings from a considerable amount of previous work showing that facial clues (including eye movements) are poor indicators of deception," wrote the authors, led by Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire in the United Kingdom.  The study is published in the online journal PLoS ONE.

Howard Ehrlichman, a professor emeritus of psychology at Queens College of the City University of New York, has done considerable research on eye movements, and said he also never found any link between the direction of eye movements and lying.

"This does not mean that the eyes don't tell us anything about what people are thinking," he said.  "I found that while the direction of eye movements wasn't related to anything, whether people actually made eye movements or not was related to aspects of things going on in their mind."

He said that people tend to make eye movements -- about one per second on average -- when they are retrieving information from their long-term memory.

"If there's no eye movement during a television interview, I'm convinced that the person has rehearsed or repeated what they are going to say many times and don't have to search for the answer in their long-term memories," Ehrlichman said.

He said he's not sure where the notion about directionality of eye movement and lying came from, but said it has spread despite little scientific evidence for it.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Why You Should Schedule an Eye Exam Today

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Spondyloarthritis -- the name for a family of inflammatory rheumatic diseases that includes ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a relatively common but incurable form of inflammatory arthritis that strikes young adults -- is just one of many systemic diseases that can first be picked up during an eye exam.

Up to 40 percent of all individuals with AS will experience at least one episode of iritis during the course of their disease.

"Early diagnosis is key to improved outcomes with spondyloarthritis," said Laurie Savage, executive director of the Spondylitis Association of America. "Once diagnosed, an individual can start managing the disease appropriately in partnership with the rheumatologist."

Doctors say dozens, maybe scores of diseases -- from high blood pressure to certain cancers -- can show symptoms in the eye.

Researchers in the United States and in Scotland are even studying how simple eye tests can diagnose illnesses like heart disease.

"There are many systemic diseases we see in the eye," said Dr. Roy Chuck, chair of the department of opthalmology and visual sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Diabetes can also be caught early by looking at the eye, as well as advanced hypertension, which shows up as bleeding in new blood vessels and cause retinal detachment.

"You see very skinny blood vessels where the flow is restricted and, in the worst case, bleeding, or new blood vessels responding to not getting enough oxygen," said Chuck. "You see early narrowing to the point where the vessels cross each other."

And it's not just the inner eye that can reveal disease. In xanthelasma, fatty deposits appear on the eyelids. The condition is usually "fairly normal," he said.

But when they appear on only one lid and not the other, it suggests a blood vessel could be blocked off. "It's not a sign of high cholesterol directly, but a blood flow problem," said Chuck.

Even sickle cell anemia, common in African Americans, is visible during an eye exam.

Jaundice often is more prominent in the whites of the eyes, depending on a person's skin tone, and the color can tip off a doctor to liver disease.

But yellowed eyes can also appear "for no reason at all," especially if a person's eyes are blood shot and before the blood clears, the whites turn a kind of "dirty yellow," according to Chuck.

Surprisingly, lesions on the retina can be a sign of Gardner syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by multiple growths or polyps in the colon, extra teeth and bony tumors of the skull.

"When you have specific types of retinal lesions with scarring that are there for more no reason, especially in a younger person, you should ask for a family history of a colon problem," he said.

The eye is quite literally a "real window" to the rest of the body, according to Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Women's Heart Center at Cedars Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

"The vitreous fluid is clear and we can look through the opening in the iris and see the blood vessels quite easily," she said. "They taught us in medical school to look with the opthalmoscope as part of the general exam. Sadly, it's not done by most practitioners and they have lost the skill set."

"We have moved away from common things done in a physical exam to higher-tech things that trump the physical exam," she said.

But just this week, Scottish scientists at University of Edinburgh reported that a simple eye test -- taking a high-definition image of the retina -- could help save the lives of thousands of heart attack patients each year by revealing problems with blood vessels that are indicative of cardiac disease.

Bairey Merz has been part of a similar study in the United States -- the NIH-funded Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation -- hoping that by looking at the microvasulature in the eyes, risk can be identified without invasive procedures.

"We look at arteries and veins in the back of the eye as a predictor of heart disease in women and to a lesser extent men," she said. "The idea is that all of these arteries swim in the same swimming pool and are exposed to the same cholesterol level, sugar level, blood pressure, nutrients or lack thereof, exercise and smoking."

Diagnosing illness through the eye is nothing new, according to Dr. Marco Zarbin, chief of ophthalmology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

"It happens all the time," he said, from rare conditions to diseases like multiple sclerosis, leukemia, brain tumors.

"If you look at your brain, two-thirds of it is dedicated to some aspect of vision," said Zarbin. "It's a big deal."

Eye doctors emphasize that regular exams are important.

Children get their first eye screenings in public school, but after that, ophthalmologists advise teens get checked once every one or two years, depending on their health.

After 45, when adults start to lose reading vision, yearly visits are recommended.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Research Offers Hope for Halting Macular Degeneration

Reporter's Notebook
By: Jane E. Allen

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- I grew up acutely aware that good vision is precious.

In 1971, at age 46, my mother lost sight in her right eye from a blood clot in the retina. It happened within minutes, and over the years, glaucoma and cataracts took their toll, although she continued plowing through murder mysteries with what she called her “good eye.”

Then, one night in December 2008, Mom casually mentioned that bar codes on food packages looked wavy. I knew visual distortions were a sentinel symptom of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness, and urged her to see her ophthalmologist. Within 36 hours, a retina specialist was injecting a drug called Lucentis into her left eye to protect her central vision and ability to see detail. Since then, my 86-year-old mother has returned every six weeks for an injection of Lucentis, which has largely stabilized the so-called wet form of the disease.

As if having one parent with severe eye disease isn’t troubling enough, my 89-year-old father has been treated for glaucoma, cataracts and the so-called dry form of macular degeneration. However, his vision is so stable that he long ago stopped checking for crooked lines on what’s called an Amsler grid, which he taped inside a kitchen cabinet door more than 25 years ago.

According to the National Eye Institute, more than 1.75 million Americans, aged 40 and older have advanced AMD. There are treatments, but there is no cure -- at least not yet.

Despite my own elevated risk for the disease, stemming from age and family history, this week I got a glimmer of hope that science may keep me from following in my parents’ footsteps. Researchers from UC Santa Barbara, the University of Utah and the University of Iowa reported finding 50 genes that were either overly active or less active in a comparison of donor eyes with and without macular degeneration. The findings are illuminating little-understood aspects of how macular degeneration begins and progresses, according to a study published Thursday in BioMed Central’s journal Genome Medicine.

Not only can these genes “identify people with clinically recognized AMD and distinguish between different advanced types,” some of them also appear linked to abnormal changes occurring in the eye before the disease is diagnosable, said study author Monte J. Radeke, a research scientist at UCSB’s Center for the Study of Macular Degeneration. Knowing how these genes function makes them potentially valuable targets for drug development, he said.

“That’s the most important thing about this article. It points out different pathways that could be involved in the disease progression,” said Dr. Marco Zarbin, chief of ophthalmology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Newark. “This is wonderful research because first of all, it shows a number of pathways involved in the disease process, both in the early and later stages, which creates opportunities to create treatments that might be better than what we have now.”

Eye doctors currently cannot really help someone at high risk who hasn’t yet manifested signs of the disease. In addition, the current treatment arsenal remains limited, although some of the many drugs now in clinical trials might potentially prove useful, Zarbin said.

Doctors can halt or slow the progression of wet AMD with injections of Lucentis (ranibizumab), approved in 2005; Avastin (bevacizumab), used off-label; and Eylea (aflibercept), FDA-approved last November. All three drugs, which prevent growth of abnormal and leaky vessels in the retina, appear more effective than Macugen (pegaptanib), which was approved in 2004. A few patients still receive photodynamic therapy with Visudyne (verteporfin), an intravenous drug approved in 2000 that’s activated by light shined into the eye. Patients with some manifestations of dry AMD, such as deposits called drusen, can stave off vision loss by taking a dietary supplement of minerals and vitamins.

Researchers around the globe have found some genes associated with a predisposition to AMD, but the new study “increases our knowledge of the genetic abnormalities that are associated with the different stages of AMD. You’re basically increasing the genetic fingerprint for at-risk patients,” Zarbin said. It’s still too soon to make the information the basis of a screening test, he said.

“If we had perfect treatment for all stages of disease, and perfect treatments that could prevent development of disease before you get it, then genetic screening would make a lot of sense,” Zarbin added.

By identifying genes involved in processes that damage the eye, the findings set the stage for a more sophisticated, multi-pronged approach to treatment. Doctors could develop therapies that target genes associated with inflammation, genes that control programmed cell death (apoptosis) in dry AMD, and genes that drive the formation of leaky blood vessels (angiogenesis) in wet AMD. Doctors might prescribe multiple drugs, kind of like hitting your enemy on several fronts.

Zarbin and Dr. Kang Zhang, director of the Institute for Genomic Medicine and chief of Ophthalmic Genetics at UC San Diego, said they’d like to see the study replicated in larger numbers.

”What I want to see is more connections between genes which give you heightened genetic risk for AMD and the genes identified by these authors,” Zhang said.

Finally, Zhang said one of the practical limitations of the new findings was that they came from cadaver eyes. “It’s not feasible to biopsy human eyes,” he said. He hopes the same kinds of genetic information might be gleaned from blood samples and eventually turned into simple blood tests.

I’m hoping that diagnostic, therapeutic and preventive advances will keep me from ever having to face a needlestick in the eye eight times a year. Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit my mother’s remarkable ability to tolerate pain and discomfort.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Year Celebrations: Champagne Bottle Safety

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- December 31st is when millions of us ring in the new year with a champagne toast. But all those flying champagne corks could be hazardous to your eyesight. It may surprise you to know that a champagne cork can clock fifty miles per hour as it bursts from the bottle. That's powerful enough to shatter glass --  and to cause permanent eye injury.
So you don't uncork a visit to the emergency room, here are some last-minute safety tips from ophthalmology experts before your New Year celebration.      

  • Make sure sparkling wine is no warmer than 45 degrees fahrenheit. The cork in a warm bottle is more likely to pop suddenly.
  • Don't shake the bottle -- that increases the pressure inside.
  • Open the bottle by holding down the cork with your palm while twisting open the wire hood.
  • Point the bottle away from people and put a towel over the bottletop and grasp the cork.
  • Slowly and firmly twist the bottle while holding the cork, then press downward slightly to control the cork just as it pops free.

Then, you can watch all the new years celebrations with your eyes safe and sound.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Beware: Novelty Colored Contact Lenses Can Cause Damage

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you've been eyeing those neon-green sunburst eye contacts this Halloween, beware.

While those colored contacts seem like the perfect touch to your homemade zombie costume, they can damage your eyes.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning that buying these decorative contacts from anyone but a licensed ophthalmologist or optometrist can give your eyes a monster mash of problems: scratches on your cornea, infections, pink eye and, in the most severe cases, blindness.

These lenses, often sold in pop-up Halloween stores, beauty supply shops and on the Internet, don’t correct your vision but just change the eyes’ appearance.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Connecticut Veteran Wins Nearly $1M in 'Exploding Eyeball' Suit

Getty Images(WEST HAVEN, Conn.) -- A 60-year-old Army veteran has won $925,000 in a settlement with the Department of Veterans' Affairs following a botched cataract operation.

Jose Goncalves was blinded in his right eye in 2007 when a resident at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in West Haven, Conn., injected too much anesthetic too fast, causing his eyeball to literally explode.

The outpatient surgery to remove cataracts, which cloud the lens and make it difficult to see, is done using local anesthetic, and the patient is usually awake during the procedure. But Dr. Yue Michelle Wang, the resident responsible for numbing Goncalves' eye, injected the anesthetic "directly into Jose's eye instead of behind the eye," according to Goncalves' attorney, Christopher Bernard of the law firm Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder.

"It is clear that Dr. Wang's training was seriously inadequate," Bernard said in a statement. "This should have been a routine procedure as it is for countless people every day. When proper techniques are used, this particular complication should never occur."

Wang and the U.S. attorney's office, which represented the VA, did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for a comment.

The lawsuit, filed in October 2009, argued that Goncalves' injuries were "a result of carelessness and negligence" by the doctors at the Veterans' Administration Hospital and that he "has been permanently deprived of his ability to carry on and enjoy life's activities."

Goncalves endured four more surgeries to try to save vision in the damaged eye, to no avail. Unable to return to his job as a roofer, he now works in the maintenance department at Central Connecticut State University. He can only drive short distances, according to Bernard, and struggles with reading and watching television because his undamaged eye tires quickly.

"Jose suffered excruciating pain after that botched surgery and continued to have severe pain for months afterward," Bernard said in a statement. "If anything should ever happen to the undamaged left eye, he could face total blindness."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Are Gadgets to Blame for Nearsightedness?

Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Students in Shanghai spend about three hours a day using electronic devices, and experts there believe that could be what's causing more than half of them to become nearsighted.

In a report by the Shanghai Evening Post cited on the website China Daily, results from a survey done by Chinese health officials show that almost 60 percent of students in primary and middle school are nearsighted.

Eye doctors in the United States aren't surprised to learn there could be that many students with myopia, or nearsightedness. While studies have shown that the onset of myopia is higher in Asia, experts say that more and more kids worldwide are becoming nearsighted. There's debate over the exact cause and whether it's really due to excessive use of computers and other gadgets with electronic screens.

"In fact, published National Institutes of Health data for the past 30 years find that the incidence of myopia in the U.S. has almost doubled from 24 percent to 42 percent," said Dr. Roy S. Chuck, professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, N.Y.

"Historically, farsightedness was more common than nearsightedness, and that trend has reversed," said Dr. Robert Maloney of Maloney Vision Institute in Los Angeles. "This is a worldwide problem in the developed world, not just a Chinese problem. For example, 90 percent of Singaporean 18-year-olds are nearsighted, and the numbers in Japan are not far off."

As for the reasons behind the widespread increase in myopia across the world, experts say the science is inconclusive.

"The cause is unknown. There were a number of studies done several decades ago that looked at the relation between near work -- like studying and video games -- and nearsightedness, and there wasn't much correlation," Maloney said. "A more recent well-done study published several years ago suggested such a correlation. Bottom line is that we don't know for sure if the video games are causing this."

But, he said, "the onset of myopia in Singaporean 18 year olds preceded the widespread use of video games."

"Although there is no direct definitive evidence, there does exist highly suggestive laboratory and clinical data, and it just makes sense," said Chuck.

A 2008 study published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, showed an association between time spent engaged in outdoor activities and lower rates of nearsightedness among 12-year-old Australian children. Researchers in that study, led by Dr. Kathryn A. Rose of the University of Sydney in Australia, believe the intensity of outdoor light could play a role, and wrote, "this protective effect suggests that a public health measure aimed at preventing development of myopia could be based on increasing the engagement of children in outdoor activity."

There could also be other factors contributing to rising myopic rates.

"What we know is that there is a high genetic component to high myopia and that myopia is higher in many Asian countries compared to Western. We also know that myopia is more common in people with higher socioeconomic status and more years of education," said Dr. Jay S. Pepose, director of the Pepose Vision Institute in St. Louis and professor of clinical ophthalmology at Washington University School of Medicine.

Maloney added that more exposure to light because of increased use of electricity is another possible cause.

While experts can't say for sure that too much television or computer time is leading to vision problems in children, they think it's a good idea to curb usage anyway.

"What I always suggest is the proper balance of near and distance vision tasks, that is, get your kids outdoors and experiencing the big world around them," said Chuck.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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