Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Science News I like!

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)Image via WikipediaScientists at the University of Leicester, funded by Hope Against Cancer, a Leciestershire based charity are pioneering the use of a common curry cooking ingredient to target cancer cells.

Dr Karen Brown, a Reader at the University, is the principal investigator of this new research, which is also being led by Dr Lynne Howells, of the and Biomarkers Group at the University.

The aim is use tissue from the colorectal tumours to effectively target chemo-resistant cells using curcumin, an extract of the commonly used root turmeric.

They will test their hypothesis using tissue from tumours extracted from patients undergoing surgery. Previous laboratory research has shown that curcumin, has not only improved the effectiveness of chemotherapy but has also reduced the number of chemo-resistant cells which has implications in preventing the disease returning.


  • Accounts for over 600,000 deaths a year
  • The third leading cause of cancer deaths in the western world
  • The risk of developing increases with age
  • Studies show that a diet high in red meat and low in fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry and fish increases the risk of colorectal cancer
  • Part of the ginger family
  • Native to south Asia
  • Orange/yellow powder is a spice for curries
  • Curcumin has an earthy, peppery flavour
  • It has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries
  • Its potential use in Alzheimer's, arthritis and other disorders is also being investigated around the world

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Monday, September 27, 2010

Thousands Of Baltimore Students May Lack Vision Care

The Baltimore Sun reports that in Maryland, thousands of Baltimore students may have eyesight problems that go undetected and uncorrected because of inadequate funding in the city's school-based health system -- a problem that leaves many of them at a disadvantage in the classroom, according to a report released Monday by the Abell Foundation.

The report found that many students are falling through the cracks of the city's school-based vision-screening program, a problem exacerbated by the school system's truancy challenges and its urban population. In particular, the report focused its criticism on the number of vision screeners at the Health Department. Nine screeners are responsible for students at 140 city schools, in addition to 1,600 private-school students, the study found.

We are fortunate that Charlotte Mecklenburg School Health has a very good vision screening program. I was fortunate to participate in the training of health service staff and nurses in screening for visual disorders.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Video Games May Help Treat Lazy Eye

Scientific studies on video games have mainly focused on the harmful effects of playing the fast-moving action games on computer or TV screens. But new research indicates that video game therapy can improve the vision of adults with lazy eye also known as Amblyopia.

Amblyopia is a brain disorder in which the vision in one eye does not develop properly and is the most frequent cause of permanent visual impairment in childhood, affecting two to three of every 100 children, according to the National Eye Institute. Amblyopia is also the most common cause of one-eye visual impairment among young adults or people in middle age.

Although lazy eye in children can be treated by putting a patch over the “good eye” to force the brain to use the “lazy” one, few options have been available for adults with the disorder. Conventional wisdom has held that unless the disorder is corrected in childhood, “damage was thought to be irreversible".

Sept. 22, 2010 -- Most scientific studies on video games have focused on the harmful effects of playing the fast-moving action games on computer or TV screens. But new research indicates that video game therapy can improve the vision of adults with lazy eye.

A study published in the Sept. 21 issue of PLoS Biology shows that people with lazy eye, or amblyopia, had marked improvement in visual acuity and 3-D depth perception after spending 40 hours playing video games.

Study researcher Roger Li, PhD, of the School of Optometry and the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley, says the study is the first to show that playing video games can improve blurred vision in adults with lazy eye.

Researchers used an action video game that required subjects to shoot at targets, or a non-action game where users construct things on screen. Twenty subjects participated, between the ages of 20 and 60.

In one experiment, 10 patients played the action video game for 40 hours, two hours at a time, over the course of a month. In another, three people played the non-action video game for the same amount of time, while wearing a patch over their good eyes.

The researchers say both experiments produced a 30% increase in visual acuity, or an average of 1.5 lines on the standard letter charges used by optometrists.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Three million to nine million people in the United States have vision problems that keep them from enjoying such 3-D movies as Avatar and Toy Story 3, estimates the American Optometric Association (AOA).
What's more, "as many as 56 percent of people between 18 and 38 years of age suffer from symptoms related to depth-perception problems." A poll conducted by the AOA found that headaches, blurred vision, and dizziness are the most common side effects from 3-D movies for people who have binocular vision difficulties.

Today's films, like those of yore, are made by recording and projecting a separate pair of image-tracks for each eye. These are slightly offset from each other, giving what's called a binocular disparity cue, which in turn produces an illusion of depth.

Vision researchers have spent many years studying the discomfort associated with watching stereoscopic movies. Similar problems plague flight simulators, head-mounted virtual-reality displays, and many other applications of 3-D technology. There's even a standard means of assessing 3-D fatigue in the lab: The "simulator sickness questionnaire" rates subjects on their experience of 16 common symptoms—including fatigue, headache, eyestrain, nausea, blurred vision, sweating, and increased salivation.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fundus photo showing focal laser surgery for d...Image via WikipediaMedWire reported that, according to a study published in the journal Diabetes, high serum levels of prolactin are associated with a decreased risk for diabetic retinopathy.
After working with rats and also measuring serum prolactin in 40 nondiabetic and 181 diabetic men with various degrees of retinopathy, researchers led by Carmen Clapp of the Cellular and Molecular Biology institute at the Institute of Neurobiology found that mean prolactin levels were higher in diabetic versus nondiabetic individuals (34.1 vs. 16.3 ng/ml), but lower in diabetic patients with proliferative retinopathy than in those without this complication (26.7 vs. 32.8 ng/ml). Notably, the results were the same, regardless of whether patients had type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
The researchers conclude that prolactin is an important systemic inhibitor of diabetes induced retinal hypervasopermeability after its intra ocular conversion into vasoinhibins.

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Australian Researchers Identify Several New Genes Causing Eye Disease

Australia's Herald Sun reports, Australian scientists have identified several new genes that cause eye disease, in further steps towards a test that could determine a person's lifetime 'risk of blindness.'

Investigators led by Stuart MacGregor at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research assessed data from more than a thousand sets of twins, looking for genes that drive a range of vision-related problems from mild to severe.

They found not only a gene influencing cornea thickness, but also discovered a new gene for genes affecting glaucoma risk, and a gene that causes optic nerve hypoplasia -- one of the leading causes of blindness in children.
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Blindness May Be As Much A Function Of The Brain As Of The Eye

NPR Morning Edition program reports that people who have been blind since childhood may not be able to see so well after sight-restoring surgery as adults. That is because their brains have rewired themselves, so to speak, to accommodate the vision loss.

In the case described by NPR, as a child, one man's "visual cells...devoted to fine detail eventually deteriorated." His blindness in early childhood set off a chain reaction as other parts of [his] brain that also depended on visual information suddenly weren't getting it. As a result, he lost both the ability to recognize faces and to tell different kinds of objects apart.

This case was first studied by Ione Fine, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington. The gentleman who was studied Mike May, had been able to see, once upon a time. She wondered, now that he had a good eye, why couldn't his brain pick up where it left off? That's the subject of a paper published earlier this year in the journal Neuron.
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Venn diagram illustrating the relation between...Image via WikipediaABC World News reported, Despite all of our efforts to get healthy in America...most of us are not eating as many fruits and vegetables as recommended. Over the past decade, the same number of us eat vegetables and even fewer of us are eating enough fruit.

The AP reports that most Americans still don't eat vegetables often enough, and fruit consumption is actually dropping a little, according to a new government report released Thursday. The CDC found that last year, about one-third of US adults consumed fruit or fruit juice at least twice a day. That's down slightly from more than 34 percent in 2000. Only about 26 percent ate vegetables three or more times a day, the same as in 2000.

Women Much More Likely Than Men To Eat Recommended Servings. The Orlando Sentinel Vital Signs blog reported that the numbers haven't even increased in ten years, despite efforts from the federal government like 'five-a-day,' which suggests eating a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables. Also, women are much more likely than men to eat the recommended servings.
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Can-Fite BioPharma Ltd. has opened an Investigational New Drug application (IND) with the FDA for a Phase 3 study of its lead drug, CF101, in patients with moderate to severe dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye syndrome is a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye. Its consequences range from subtle but constant irritation to ocular inflammation of the anterior (front) tissues of the eye. Dry eyes also are described by the medical term, keratitis sicca, which generally means decreased quality or quantity of tears
CF101 was found to be safe and well tolerated in an earlier Phase 2 study, in which the drug was taken orally as a monotherapy for 12 weeks.
According to Can-Fite, the randomized, double-masked, Phase 3 trial, which will enroll approximately 240 patients at multiple centers, will compare 2 doses of CF101 to placebo. The patients will be treated for 24 weeks and the main outcome assessments are improvement of corneal fluorescein staining, tear production and dry eye symptom score.
The National Women's Health Resource Center has named the top 100 dry eye hot spots in the United States based on information compiled from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climatic Data Center and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Factors used in the selection process included temperatures, humidity, wind, altitude, pollutants and ocular allergens.
The top 20 U.S. cities named as dry eye hot spots are:
1. Las Vegas, Nev.
2. Lubbock, Texas*
2. El Paso, Texas*
4. Midland/Odessa, Texas
5. Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
6. Atlanta, Ga.
7. Salt Lake City, Utah
8. Phoenix, Ariz.
9. Amarillo, Texas
10. Honolulu, Hawaii
11. Oklahoma City, Okla.
12. Albuquerque, N.M.
13. Tucson, Ariz.
14. Norfolk, Va.
15. Newark, N.J.
16. Boston, Mass.
17. Denver, Colo.
18. Pittsburgh, Pa.
19. Bakersfield, Calif.*
19. Wichita, Kan.*
*Cities were tied for these spots.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Retinal Injuries from a Handheld Laser Pointer

According to a case study published in the Sept. 9 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, a 15-year-old Swiss boy damaged his eyes while playing with a laser pointer he'd bought over the Internet, say doctors who warn that dangerously high-powered versions are easily available online.

The pointer used by the teen was "30 times more powerful than the FDA limit." After playing with it in front of a mirror to create a light show...he accidentally zapped his eyes with its green light several times.

The majority of the laser pointers used in the U.S. have either Class 2 lasers with a maximum power output of less than 1 mW or Class 3R diode lasers in the 630-680 nm wavelength (red), with a maximum power output of between 1 and 5 mW. All laser pointers should have a small sticker on them with either a yellow "Caution" or black and red "Danger" insignia, the laser classification (2 or 3R), the maximum output power (in milliwatts mW) and the wavelength. It is prudent not to purchase or use unlabeled laser pointers.

Retinal injuries from lasers can result from ablative, thermal, or photochemical mechanisms depending on power, wavelength, exposure time, and size of pupil.

Laser pointers are effective tools when used properly. The following considerations should be observed when using laser pointers:

  • Never look directly into the laser beam.
  • Never point a laser beam at a person.
  • Do not aim the laser at reflective surfaces.
  • Never view a laser pointer using an optical instrument, such as binocular or a microscope.
  • Do not allow children to use laser pointers unless under the supervision of an adult.
  • Use only laser pointers meeting the following criteria
    • Labeled with FDA certification stating "DANGER: Laser Radiation" for Class 3R lasers or "CAUTION: Laser Radiation" for Class 2 pointers.
    • Classified as Class 2 or 3R according to the label. Do not use Class 3b or 4 products.
    • Operates at a wavelength between 630 nm and 680 nm.
    • Has a maximum output less than 5 mW, the lower the better.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Too Few Infants Get Comprehensive Eye Assessments

One in 10 infants in the U.S. have undetected vision problems, ranging from crossed eyes to cancer. While most parents know eye and vision problems can be detected in children before they're a year old, only 19 percent of those who participated in the American Optometric Association's (AOA) annual Eye-Q® survey report taking their infant for a comprehensive eye assessment.

Read more here
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AOA Pushes Children's Vision Benefit to HHS Secretary

Although the new national health care reform law - most commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act - was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in late March, the Washington, D.C. battles over health care reform are far from over.

Right now, Federal agencies - led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), are going through the legislation's more than 2000 pages and are writing rules on how it will be implemented - mostly between now and 2014.

And in the first of many health overhaul implementation battles that will directly impact optometry, concerned ODs and students are urging their elected national leaders to join the fight and help AOA fully define the new children's vision benefit.

Through its all-out advocacy efforts in 2009 and 2010 focusing on Capitol Hill, the AOA helped make children's vision a top health care priority at the national level. In fact, an AOA-backed provision included in the new law specifically designates children's vision as an "essential health benefit."

This now means that in 2014 all health plans participating within the new state-based health insurance exchanges will be required to provide a children's vision benefit. However, how "children's vision" is ultimately defined has yet to be determined by HHS officials, though it will make an enormous difference to millions of American families.

That's why AOA has made it a priority to ensure that top HHS officials fully understand the issue and the stakes for America's kids. As evidenced in a special video message to the AOA from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius ( ), these efforts are making a difference.

In the coming weeks and months, however, it will be important that concerned Senators and House members who support comprehensive eye exams weigh-in with Secretary Sebelius and help make certain that the children's vision benefit is not hijacked or diminished in any way during what could be a very lengthy and confusing regulatory process.

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