Univ of Mich device can predict diabetes & macular degeneration through eyes

January 31, 2011

A vision testing device developed by two University of Michigan researchers is showing promise in the detection of diabetes, both in its early and potentially blinding stages.

It also may help diagnose changes that occur in the eye as early as 10 years before a person is diagnosed with macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly.

Eventually, eye doctors may use the device to determine if vitamins and drug injections taken by patients with macular degeneration actually stop progression of the disease, said Dr. Victor Elner, professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at U-M’s Kellogg Eye Center.




Google Chrome OS to have inbuilt screen reader

January 24, 2011

According to Google support, the next version of Google Chrome Operating System (OS), an operating system targeted at netbooks, will have an inbuilt screen reader.

The information came to light when Dallas Despain, Accessibility Web Developer at RightNow Technologies, reported on the RightNow blog that the next release of Google Chrome OS will include an inbuilt screen reader available via a Chrome extension called ChromeVox.

According to the Google Chrome OS accessibility help page, the login screen verbally prompts you for your username and password. Once signed in, ChromeVox is turned on and all Chrome menus are voiced. Opening webpages produces a combination of spoken feedback and non-speech auditory cues, and you can access a set of keyboard commands that can be customised for your own needs.


Artificial retinas see well enough to balance a pencil

January 24, 2011

A team of researchers has built a neural information system that is good enough and fast enough to balance a pencil in real time. If you think it’s an easy task, try it!

Building a machine to balance a pencil on its point used to be a high-level research topic – if you aren’t into AI I’d better add that this isn’t a joke! Think for a moment about the task. You have to move the point of balance around so as to bring the point back under the center of gravity of the pencil. The problem is also dynamic because you have to take account of draughts and vibrations that disturb the equilibrium. As a classical control problem it is also difficult because the equilibrium is unstable.

A team at  the Institute of Neuroinformatics, ETH / University Zurich have used what look like video cameras to do the job but in fact they are analog silicon retinas. They work so fast that even with fairly basic hardware they can balance a pencil.

The whole performance is remarkable but all the more so when you know that it is all biologically inspired.  It isn’t simply using the position of the pencil outline against a background and it does the job better than a human can.

More Information


http://siliconretina.ini.uzh.ch/PencilBalancer/ISCAS paper




Macular Degeneration Stem Cell Treatment

January 24, 2011

Did you know that stem cells are currently being used for macular degeneration treatment?

However, these stem cells are not embryonic, but rather autologous.

There are many sources of stem cells, but one common source that is used for many cancer patients needing bone marrow transplants, is a patient’s own bone marrow. These immature stem cells have the ability to develop into other specialized cells.

The X-Cell Center in Germany is one such center. In the United States, Dr. Edward Kondrot in Cave Creek, Arizona has begun using stem cell therapy as well.

On January 3, 2011, Advanced Cell Technology announced that the United States FDA approved their application to treatmacular degeneration stem cellsdry age-related macular degeneration (AMD)using retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells derived from human embryonic stem cells.

Sites currently under consideration are the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, and the Ophthalmology Department at Stanford University School of Medicine.



Photography for the Visually Impaired – Not as Strange as You Might Think

January 22, 2011

Photography is one of the most vision intensive hobbies, so many visually impaired people have the misconception that they can’t enjoy it.  Actually, nothing could be further from the truth.  There are visually impaired fine art photographers such as Kurt Weston, and visually impaired photographers, such asBruce Hall, who have works on display at the Smithsonian.  Totally blind people take pictures and use cameras on a more regular basis then you might imagine.  People shouldn’t let a visual impairment keep them from photography.  All you need is to know how to adapt the picture-taking process to your particular needs.  Here are a few suggestions on how that can be accomplished:

Get a Camera That Allows you to Magnify the View Finder

Use Zoom Lenses

A small pocket magnifier is helpful Changing Camera Settings

Photoshop + ZoomText is a Winning Combination


Airline Travel for those with Low Vision

January 22, 2011

Lauren Tappan  posted this article from the AIsquared blog:

When it comes to air travel when you have a visual impairment, it’s not just about getting frisked in security and boarding a stuffy, crowded plane.  Airports present quite a few additional obstacles to passengers traveling with a visual impairment.  For someone who is totally blind and traveling with a seeing-eye dog, it is kind of obvious that they may need some assistance.  Those with low vision on the other hand, have to do a bit more asking, be more organized and get to the airport earlier than most – it’s no fun running to a gate and not being able to read the signs even though they can be quite large.

We thought it would be helpful to take a look at a few of the major airlines in the United States to see what accommodations and assistance they provide to travelers with low vision.



Bayer and Regeneron Say VEGF Trap-Eye Improves Treatment of Wet AMD

January 22, 2011

Bayer HealthCare and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals say that two Phase III studies testing VEGF Trap-Eye (aflibercept ophthalmic solution) in wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD) met the primary endpoint of statistical noninferiority in the proportion of patients who maintained (or improved) vision over 52 weeks compared to ranibizumab (Lucentis).

The goal of these studies was to demonstrate that VEGF Trap-Eye could improve vision and maintain this improvement over time with a more convenient every-other-month dose. Patients receiving VEGF Trap-Eye 2 mg monthly achieved a statistically significant greater mean improvement in visual acuity at week 52 versus baseline (secondary endpoint) compared to ranibizumab (Lucentis) 0.5 mg monthly.

Further results will be presented at the Angiogenesis Conference in February 2011. Bayer and Regeneron are planning to submit regulatory applications in Europe and the U.S. in the first half of 2011 based on the positive results of these two trials.