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Entries in Vision (7)

Thursday
Jul262012

Black Eyed Peas Star Gets Vision Back

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As a member of the Grammy Award-winning group the Black Eyed Peas, apl.de.ap 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 apl.de.ap’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 apl.de.ap can see is the first five rows of fans and only the shapes of his bandmates Taboo, Fergie and will.i.am.

“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, apl.de.ap 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 apl.de.ap’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, apl.de.ap 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.”

Apl.de.ap’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,” apl.de.ap 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

Tuesday
Jun192012

Contact Lenses Considered for Elephant

Ryan McVay/Thinkstock(RALEIGH, N.C.) -- After having C'Sar, the North Carolina Zoo’s 38-year-old elephant, undergo two rare surgeries to correct cataracts, caretakers at the zoo and a team of veterinarians from North Carolina State University are considering whether to get the elephant corrective lenses, which would make CSar the first elephant ever to receive contacts.

But they fear the risks of the contact lenses could outweigh the benefits.

“It’s never been used before in an elephant or in any animal species, and so it’s a little bit difficult for us to predict how it would affect him,” said Richard McMullen, assistant professor of veterinary ophthalmology at North Carolina State University. McMullen performed both of C'Sar’s cataract surgeries.

C’Sar, an African bull elephant, was diagnosed with cataracts in 2010. His caretakers noticed he seemed lethargic and depressed and had difficulty getting around his 7.5 acre exhibit. The 12,000 pound elephant had also lost 1,000 pounds.

“They would throw food in front of him, and he couldn’t even see it,” said Rod Hackney, public relations manager at the North Carolina Zoo.

The zoo removed C’Sar from his exhibit in March 2011 because his eyesight was so poor, Hackney said. In October 2011, the elephant had his first surgery. This spring C'Sar was returned to his exhibit and seemed to be doing much better, until his second surgery in May, Hackney said. Although the surgeries improved C’Sar’s sight, they left him farsighted.

While C'Sar recovers from his second surgery, he is being kept in a barn with a small paddock, where caretakers can keep a closer eye on him. C’Sar has already gained back the weight he lost and appears upbeat, Hackney said. Zoo officials are confident he will make a full recovery.

“We believe the surgeries will improve his sight enough that the lenses won’t be necessary,” said Hackney.

One of the major reasons zoo officials remain so wary about the contact lenses is the difficulty of putting them in.

“When we get close to his eye he’ll squint pretty tightly,” McMullen said. “That’s going to be the first hurdle we have to overcome.”

Although at 38 C’Sar is in middle-age in elephant years, cataracts aren’t the only health problem he has had during his 34 years at the zoo.

“He has fallen down in his area and had to be picked up with a crane,” Hackney said. “He has arthritis and other problems.”

If the zoo decides to go ahead with the contact lenses, they would have to be changed about every three months, during which C’Sar would have to be put to sleep, Hackney said.

“Because of his problems getting up from a lying position, the chances are good that they’re not going to put the contact lenses in,” Hackney said.

Acrivet, a Germen-based company that makes corrective lenses for dogs, is ready to make the lenses if needed. C’Sar’s lenses would need to be 38 millimeters in diameter, McMullen said.

“We’ll be able to tell very early on if they’re going to make a positive effect or not, but we still need to get to that point,” McMullen said.

C’Sar came to the zoo in 1978 from Africa at age 4. He is now one of seven elephants in the exhibit, and is the oldest remaining member of the original animal collection on site. He is also one of the most popular animals at the zoo.

The zoo is waiting until September or October to finish observing C’Sar and decide if contact lenses are necessary.

“Contacts would be considered if he continues to have problems getting around, stops eating like he should or appears lethargic and depressed,” Hackney said. “So far the exact opposite has happened.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar132012

NASA Astronauts' Eyesight Damaged by Long Space Flights

NASA(HOUSTON) -- As American astronauts spend more and more time in space, they've noticed they're returning to Earth with a surprising malady: They cannot focus their eyes properly after they come home, and for some the problem seems permanent.

Astronauts with 20/20 vision found they needed glasses for the first time, says NASA.  A few -- their names withheld to protect their privacy -- were told it would be unwise for them to fly in space again.  At least a couple could no longer pilot private planes.

Now, a team from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston has done MRIs on 27 astronauts who spent more than a month in space, and reports in the journal Radiology that 60 percent have intracranial hypertension, or high fluid pressure in the skull.  The more time they spent in flight, the more likely they were to have the problem.

"We've known about vision changes in orbit but in some cases we've actually found that it can be permanent," said Peggy Whitson, who has flown twice on the space station herself and is now chief of the astronaut office.  She spoke with ABC News last year when the pattern among veteran space flyers first became apparent.

A fifth of the astronauts tested showed a flattening of the rear of the eyeball, affecting their ability to focus their eyes.  A third showed expansion of the space surrounding the optic nerve that's normally filled with cerebral spinal fluid.

Dr. Larry Kramer, who led the team at the University of Texas that did the MRIs, said the findings could someday be useful to non-astronauts, but at the moment he's most concerned about space flyers.

"What does this mean when we want to travel beyond Earth orbit, on longer missions to Mars and elsewhere?" he said in an interview with ABC News.  "There's no way to predict it, so we ought to study it now."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb272012

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

Wednesday
Jun082011

'Inattentional Blindness' Causing You to Miss Details?

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Have you ever been so deeply involved in a dinner conversation that you completely fail to notice that the server is standing right next to you, patiently waiting to take your order?

Failing to see something in plain sight because your attention is focused elsewhere is called “inattentional blindness.”  
 
A police officer was convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice in 1995 because he testified to not seeing a brutal beating by which he ran while chasing a murder suspect.  The prosecution claimed that he must have seen it and was therefore lying under oath.

However, the authors of a University of Illinois study published in i-Perception recreated the circumstances of the pursuit to see if the officer’s claims of not seeing anything were possible as a result of inattentional blindness.   They found that indeed, they were.  

The authors found that of the 20 study participants, 66 percent missed the fight if the experiment was conducted at night.  The authors also ran the experiment during daytime and even then, over 40 percent of the participants missed the fight.  

The authors conclude that although “we can’t say with certainty that Conley [the police officer] didn’t see the fight…the study shows that even under less demanding conditions than he must have experienced, it’s possible to miss something as obvious as a fight."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jun032011

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

Thursday
May262011

Blind Man Uses Bat-Like Echolocation to 'See'

Like a bat, Daniel Kish uses echolocation to create an image of his environment. (The Legooners - World Access for the Blind)(LONG BEACH, Calif.) -- Daniel Kish was 13 months old when he lost his eyes to cancer, but that didn't stop him from getting around. By making a clicking noise with his tongue and listening for the echo, Kish could figure out where things were around him, a skill that baffled his parents.

"I don't know that they really noticed the clicking right away," said Kish, 45. "I think they just noticed that I was able to find my way around."

Kish has since mastered the skill, known as echolocation. Like a bat, he uses sound to see. Kish said his brain learned to interpret the information contained in the echoes and use it to construct images.

"It's basically a representation of what's taking up space in the environment based on location, dimension and depth of structure," meaning the solidness of objects, Kish said. "The image that you get," which is colorless and has no grayscale, "basically combines those characteristics."

As president of World Access for the Blind, a non-profit organization based in Long Beach, Calif., that image helps blind people learn to "get around more effectively and lead their lives with greater freedom," Kish teaches other blind people how to echolocate. And to better understand how the technique works, he teamed up with Canadian scientists for a brain imaging study.

Using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers studied the pattern of activity in Kish's brain when he was listening to clicks and echoes. Instead of activating his auditory cortex, the area responsible for interpreting sound, the clicks and echoes appeared to activate Kish's visual cortex.

"It was really quite amazing," said Mel Goodale, director of the Centre for Brain and Mind at the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada, and senior author of the study published Wednesday in PLoS One. "It looked like it was recruiting a good chunk of the primary visual cortex in his brain."

Kish said he hopes the study adds credibility to his approach, which could attract the resources needed to deliver it more widely.

"Right now, most of the funding goes toward vision preservation and restoration, which is fine for those individuals for whom it will work, but it won't work for everyone," Kish said. "We can help blind people see their environment now."

Kish and Goodale will reconnect for a follow-up study in June aimed at teasing out how the brain system interpreting the echoes is organized.

"Blind people should realize that this is an opportunity; that you can do quite a bit with echolocation," Goodale said "I think it's important to get it out there. It may not be for everyone, but it's worth a try."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio