Solution designed for macular degeneration

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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