New hand-held device to catch early signs of eye disease

December 28, 2013

 MIT researchers have developed a new hand-held device that scans a patient’s entire retina in seconds to detect a host of retinal diseases including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration. The MIT group, in collaboration with the University of Erlangen and Praevium/Thorlabs, has developed a portable instrument that can be taken outside a specialist’s office.

To deal with the motion instability of a hand-held device, the instrument takes multiple 3-D images at high speeds, scanning a particular volume of the eye many times but with different scanning directions.

By using multiple 3-D images of the same part of the retina, it is possible to correct for distortions due to motion of the operator’s hand or the subject’s own eye.



According to study author James Fujimoto of MIT, the next step is to evaluate the technology in a clinical setting.

But the device is still relatively expensive, he added, and before this technology finds its way into doctors’ offices or in the field, manufacturers will have to find a way to support or lower its cost.

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The High Cost of Healing

December 14, 2013

The following is from the Washington Post:

The two drugs have been declared equivalently miraculous. Tested side by side in six major trials, both prevent blindness in a common old-age affliction. Biologically, they are cousins. They’re even made by the same company.

But one holds a clear price advantage.


Avastin costs about $50 per injection.

Lucentis costs about $2,000 per injection.

Doctors choose the more expensive drug more than half a million times every year, a choice that costs the Medicare program, the largest single customer, an extra $1 billion or more annually.




Many ophthalmologists, however, are skeptical that Lucentis provides any added value over the cheaper alternative.

“Lucentis is Avastin — it’s the same damn molecule with a few cosmetic changes,” said J. Gregory Rosenthal, a Toledo ophthalmologist who, outraged by the price, co-founded a group called Physicians for Clinical Responsibility to protest its use. “Yet Americans are paying a billion dollars every year for no good reason — unless you count making Genentech rich.”

John Thompson, a Baltimore ophthalmologist who is president of the American Society of Retinal Specialists, noted that most doctors use Avastin and that even more would do so if the company sought FDA approval for using it in eyes and packaged it in appropriate doses.

“If Genentech decided to get FDA approval and make Avastin available in small quantities for the eye,” he said, “the American Society of Retinal Specialists would applaud.”

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Product Review for Kindle Fire HD

December 7, 2013

The following is by Leslie Degner, RN:

When my original Apple iPad was no longer working for me, I didn’t want to invest the several hundred dollars to get an upgraded one – so I purchased the Amazon Kindle Fire HD. It never ceases to amaze me how incredible these color e-book readers are. For those with macular degeneration, this reader offers several features that are appealing to those with low vision.

1. Contrast

Although I love my Kindle Paperwhite, the Fire HD actually has better contrast. The white background is whiter and the black is blacker. The option to set the background as black and the wording in white is available to those who see the reversed contrast better.


2. Color

The vivid, sharp colors are no less than amazing. While one can get some books in large print, that is not true for magazines. So for those who enjoy reading magazines on gardening, cars, travel, or cooking that are filled with pictures just download your favorite magazine and you can magnify the font and enlarge the pictures.

 3. Cyber Monday

Last Christmas my friend showed me her new Kindle Fire, which at that time was $199. I bought mine on sale a couple of months later at $169. Today, Cyber Monday it is available for $119.

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Potential topical treatment for macular degeneration

December 7, 2013

Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences have identified a possible topical treatment for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in a study of mice that shows promise for clinical use. The research findings, published in PLOS ONE, are the first to report successful topical use of a compound capable of inhibiting symptoms associated with both dry AMD (the earlier form) and wet AMD (the rarer, later form) and could represent a breakthrough for treatment of these conditions. AMD is among the leading causes of blindness among the elderly. Currently, there is no treatment for dry AMD, and wet AMD can only be treated with regular injections into the eye.

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Solution designed for macular degeneration

December 7, 2013
Nobel laureates usually come out with inventions in their own field of exp­ertise, but winner of the award for chemistry Prof Walter Kohn has come up with a solution to help macular degeneration in patients.
Macular degeneration destroys a person’s sharp, central vision. One needs central vision to see obj­ects clearly and for  tasks, such as reading and driving. Prof Kohn’s research in the ophthalmic field did not happen overnight, it was occasioned by his wife getting afflicted with it.
“To help my wife get some kind of relief from this illness, which is predominant among people aged above 60, I started the research. I have reached the final stage and we are waiting for patents,” Prof Kohn said in an informal chat with Deccan Chronicle after delivering a lecture at Sathyabama University on Thursday.
Prof Kohn, who was awarded the Nobel prize for his development of the density-functional theory, said that he had come to meet a renowned ophthalmologist to discuss his research. He has developed a computerised met­hod to measure the precise visual distortion experienced by a macular degeneration patient, using a computer mouse and specialised software to reconstruct the Amsler grid so that it appears undistorted.

When people with healthy eyes look at the Amsler Grid, they see its straight horizontal and vertical lines, with a red dot at center. AMD patients, however, perceive a distortion about two or three centimeters in diameter reminiscent of graphics that show a bend in spacetime (the peripheral lines are not distorted).

Software lets an AMD patient, using a mouse, pull the virtual lines until he or she perceives the grid as “perfect,” yielding a spatial diagnosis of the specific distortion a person experiences. Kohn uses these results to create a correction for that patient. In one experimental device, a handheld computer scans the printed page, using software to perform dynamic compensation, distorting the text to make it readable for patients. “I think you will agree that we can feel fairly satisfied that we’ve made progress,” he said, showing an image of the corrected text.

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Special Needs Education in America

December 5, 2013

The following is by Linda Thomas of

Whether you are a parent, student, teacher, administrator, assistant, educational consultant, or generally interested in special education, chances are you are seeking to gain a better understanding of the field, learn new skills, expand your educational foundation or further your career, this site is for you. Our goal is to help you acquire the best experiences and education available given your current circumstances. 

For an infographic showing the History of Special Ed: