Cancer Research Offers Potential Treatment For Macular Degeneration

September 29, 2009

Indiana University School of Medicine research and a federal small business grant have set an Indianapolis startup company on a path to develop potential new treatments for age-related macular degeneration. The age-related wet macular degeneration project represents a new direction for Dr. Kelley’s research, which has focused on the mechanisms cells use to repair damaged DNA and how those mechanisms can be manipulated when developing cancer treatments. In particular, Dr. Kelley’s work has examined a protein called APE1 and its activities in tumor development.

The type of age-related macular degeneration that causes most of the vision loss is caused by abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye, which has led to treatments using drugs designed to block blood vessel growth in cancer – known as anti-angiogenesis drugs. No more than a third of patients get significant benefits from those drugs, however.

The pursuit of a treatment for macular degeneration came about because “we were studying the effects of an APE1 inhibitor in cancer and we saw that it had anti-angiogenesis effects,” said Dr. Kelley, who is associate director of the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research and associate director of basic science research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center on the campus of Indiana University, Purdue University – Indianapolis.


New Treatments Hold Hope for Failing Eyes

September 27, 2009

New advances in the treatment of the wet form of macular degeneration involve further research into vitamin combinations that can help slow the progress of macular degeneration. An ongoing trial is looking into whether diet or supplements can better improve a person’s chances of retaining clear vision late in life.

Research also has focused on the two drugs currently used to target VEGF, with a head-to-head study now looking into which of the two is more effective. Other anti-VEGF drugs are in the pipeline and studies are testing ways to combine anti-VEGF medications with radiation or laser therapy to produce better results.

As far as the dry form of macular degeneration, eye experts are exploring ways that drugs used to treat other nerve-damaging diseases such as Alzheimer’s might be able to help save people’s eyesight.

A Burst of Technology, Helping the Blind to See

September 27, 2009

The NY Times has an extensive article on low vision research, artificial retinas, retinal implants, macular degeneration, and developments in the restoration of sight. Included is an item on creating a replacement cornea made from the patient’s eye tooth.

EyesFree Interface for the Google Android and the Apple iPhone

September 24, 2009

EyesFree, a new interface for Google’s Android mobile phone operating system, provides a perfect illustration of what today’s “assistive technology” researchers are looking for. It provides a way for blind people to use a phone with a touch-sensitive screen, but the corollary is that it also provides sighted people with an easier way to use the phone. In fact, they can make calls without even looking at it.


The idea behind EyesFree is that wherever you put your finger on the touchscreen represents the number 5. If you want 1, you move your finger up and to the left, and if you want 8 then you move it straight down, and so on. In alpha mode, your finger is surrounded by letters instead. You get spoken feedback for each selection, and if you pick the wrong number or letter, you can delete it by shaking the phone.

Users can download it from the Android marketplace, along with Accessibilty API’s and text-to-speech software. The EyesFree interface is also available on an iPhone


Electrically stimulating nerve cells can restore some vision

September 24, 2009

MIT engineers have designed a retinal implant for people who have lost their vision from retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration, two of the leading causes of blindness. The retinal prosthesis would help restore some vision by electrically stimulating the nerve cells that normally carry visual input from the retina to the brain.

The chip would not restore normal vision but could help blind people more easily navigate a room or walk down a sidewalk. Patients who received the implant would wear a pair of glasses with a camera that sends images to a microchip attached to the eyeball. The glasses also contain a coil that wirelessly transmits power to receiving coils surrounding the eyeball. When the microchip receives visual information, it activates electrodes that stimulate nerve cells in the areas of the retina corresponding to the features of the visual scene. The electrodes directly activate optical nerves that carry signals to the brain, bypassing the damaged layers of retina.

Next steps: The research team, led by John Wyatt, MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science, recently reported a new prototype that they hope to start testing in blind patients within the next three years, after some safety refinements are made. Once human trials begin and blind patients can offer feedback on what they’re seeing, the researchers will learn much more about how to configure the algorithm implemented by the chip to produce useful vision.

Rapid Diagnosis of Retinitis Pigmentosa

September 21, 2009

The latest in Irish human genetics research at the 12th annual meeting in Dublin City University, 18th September 2009

Dr. Graeme Clark will present research carried out at Queen’s University Belfast and led by Dr. David Simpson, which illustrates how the latest genetics technology is allowing rapid screening of a hereditary visual disorder known as Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). Mutations in a total of 46 genes are implicated in this disorder, making patient screening extremely difficult. This new method will allow the simultaneously screening of all 46 genes delivering a rapid genetic diagnosis for patients.

Retinal Prostheses in development

September 21, 2009

Throughout the world, the blind are getting closer to seeing again. The Bionic Eye is in development.

Researchers at the USC Doheny Eye Institute announced today the next step in their efforts to advance technology that hopefully will help patients with retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration regain some vision using an implanted artificial retina.

Dr. Mark Humayun uses a small external camera  to transmit images to an implanted 4 mm x 5 mm retina chip with 16 electrodes, which is positioned near the ganglion cell layer of the eye. Six blind patients have been implanted with the device, one has had a device installed for more than three years.

The second generation device, dubbed the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, consists of 60 electrodes. The study, which entails tests on 10 volunteers, began in 2007.

In Germany, scientists have been working on developing retina prostheses for more than twenty years. According to the presentations, the electronic retina prostheses convey visual impressions, so-called ‘phosphenes’. Patients participating in a U.S. study were able to distinguish light and dark and to register movement and the presence of larger objects. In addition, early reports from a project being conducted by a German research group led by Profesor Eberhart Zrenner at the University of Tübingen indicated they restored visually impaired patients’ ability to read if the letters were eight centimeters (approx. 3 inches) tall.

There are different systems in competition to be the popular choice. In one of the systems, the sub-retinal implant, the chip is implanted under a layer of nerve cells in the retina. There, like the photoreceptors in the retina, it receives light impulses, converts these into electrical signals and transmits them to the nerve cells of the retina.

In the case of the so-called epiretinal implant the chip is fixed to the upper-most layer of nerve cells. There it receives data from a small camera installed in glasses worn by the patient and likewise converts these into impulses for the nerve cells.