Minds Eye Travel

November 30, 2014

The following by Lauren Tappan:

Mind’s Eye Travel is an organization that creates tours for people who are blind or visually impaired.

Our prices include sighted guide assistance and help with the following:

Immigration Documents
Boarding Passes
Cruise Line Bag Tags
Embarkation & Disembarkation
Orientation While Onboard Ship
Shore Excursions
Braille Menus (when available)
Airline Bookings

Passau to Budapest
Viking River Longship Njord
8 Days, 6 Guided Tours, 4 Countries
May 2, 2015

This 8-day itinerary takes you through four of Europe’s most enchanting
countries along the storied Danube River; Austria, Germany, Hungary and
Slovakia. Explore Budapest’s imperial and Art Nouveau delights, and take a
comprehensive tour of beautiful Bratislava’s baroque and Gothic buildings
and fountains. In Austria, discover why Vienna is “the waltz capital,” sail
through the spectacular Wachau Valley, and explore the cobblestone streets
and charming town squares of Dürnstein. And in Germany, admire Passau’s
ancient fortress and Italianate architecture. Includes a tour of the
900-year-old baroque Benedictine abbey at Melk and a full-day excursion to
the scenic city of Salzburg.

for more info:



Blindness Fact Sheet for Stem Cell Research

November 30, 2014

Calif. Inst. for Regenerative Medicine funds several research projects working to understand the basic mechanisms of macular degeneration and to develop novel stem cell-based therapies for the disease.

Nearly a million Americans are blind, with another 2.4 million suffering significant visual impairment. While there are several causes of blindness, the leading cause of all visual impairment is age-related macular degeneration, which affects 1.7 million Americans.

California’s stem cell agency funds research into potential therapies for three of the causes of blindness. All the research teams are seeking to use various forms of stem cells to rescue or replace cells in the eye damaged or threatened by the diseases. Several groups are working on ways to restore vision for people with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Other projects are looking to preserve vision in patients with retinitis pigmentosa, and to restore clarity to the surface of eyes impacted by corneal disease.

Macular degeneration

In AMD the layer of cells that support the photoreceptors is destroyed. Without this support system, the photoreceptors, the cells that actually allow us to sense light start to malfunction. CIRM-funded teams are looking at various methods of replacing this layer of support cells called RPE (retinal pigment epithelial) cells. Some are using embryonic stem cells as a starting point to generate new RPE cells. Others are using stem cells obtained by reprogramming adult cells to be like embryonic cells, which could potentially come from the patients’ themselves.

Retinitis pigmentosa

Retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited and progressive vision loss that leaves most patients legally blind by mid-life, directly destroys the photoreceptors. CIRM-funded researchers are seeking to use stem cells to rescue the receptors from further damage and potentially replace them with new ones.

limbal stem cell deficiency

The cornea, the outer surface of the eye, is constantly refreshed by stem cells that reside in neighboring tissue. But some people just don’t have enough of these stem cells, called Limbal stem cells, to make enough new cornea cells. CIRM-funded researcher are trying to correct this condition, limbal stem cell deficiency, by retrieving the few existing limbal stem cells, and using various techniques to expand them in the laboratory until there are enough cells to rebuild a healthy cornea.

For more detailed information:



Doctors predict Wet Macular Degeneration

November 30, 2014

Doctors in California predict chances of dry AMD degenerating to wet AMD.

About 10 percent of patients diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration will develop the form of the disease that causes permanent blindness. There’s no definitive way to predict who will progress to that stage or when that would happen. But a team of Stanford doctors think they may have found a way.

They created an algorithm that predicted whether a particular patient would be likely to develop the form of the disease that causes blindness within less than a year, three years or up to five years. For those with macular degeneration to go blind, the disease has to advance from what is known as the “dry” form to the “wet” form. The sooner a doctor can notice changes, the better chance there is to save a patient’s vision.

“If I can pick it up faster, the patient will start (treatment) sooner and have better vision in the end,” said Dr. Ted Leng, assistant professor of ophthalmology at Stanford Univ. and co-author of the study. “When patients do get a diagnosis of macular degeneration, we’ll be able to give them more information with some degree of certainty, and that will be comforting.”

For more info:


Google’s Brain-Inspired Software Describes What It Sees in Complex Images

November 23, 2014

Experimental Google software that can describe a complex scene could lead to better image search or apps to help the visually impaired.

Researchers at Google have created software that can use complete sentences to accurately describe scenes shown in photos—a significant advance in the field of computer vision. When shown a photo of a game of ultimate Frisbee, for example, the software responded with the description “A group of young people playing a game of frisbee.” The software can even count, giving answers such as “Two pizzas sitting on top of a stove top oven.”

Previously, most efforts to create software that understands images have focused on the easier task of identifying single objects. Multi-layered descriptions can lead to better understanding for vision-impaired readers and better searches by all.

For more info:  http://www.technologyreview.com/news/532666/googles-brain-inspired-software-describes-what-it-sees-in-complex-images/

HIV drug may also treat macular degeneration

November 23, 2014

Reporting their findings in the journal Science, the international team, led by researchers at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, say because of a previously undiscovered property, the drugs may also be effective against other inflammatory disorders.

In their new study on mice with a condition similar to dry AMD, Prof. Ambati and colleagues show that several FDA-approved NRTIs stopped retinal degeneration. But they were surprised to find it was a previously unknown property of the drugs that produced the results.

They found the NRTIs blocked a type of inflammasome called NLRP3. Inflammasomes are large complexes of proteins that play a key role in innate immunity. They detect and respond to certain molecular patterns of pathogens and other damaging agents.

For more info: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285865.php

New Laser Therapy Helps Slow Macular Degeneration

November 23, 2014
A new, low impact low energy laser treatment for patients with early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) has produced positive results by reducing indicators of the disease.
Researchers from the University of Melbourne found unlike other laser treatments, this new faster laser did not result in damage to the retina, the sensitive light detecting tissue at the back of the eye.
This was the first report detailing how this new nanosecond laser treatment may improve eye health in those with AMD. In the early stages, the disease is characterized by the presence of small fatty deposits called drusen and thickening in a membrane at the back of the eye.

Smartphone Screens Correct for Your Vision Flaws

November 19, 2014
Scientific American article
Self-correcting screens on smartphones and iPads tailor themselves to a viewer’s vision—no glasses necessary.

But glasses and contact lenses are not always ideal. If you are farsighted, for example, you do not need glasses to see traffic while driving, but you do need them to read your speedometer or GPS. The best solution in such cases, Wetzstein says, would be vision-correcting displays—screens that wear the glasses for you.Wetzstein and his colleagues at M.I.T. (where he was formerly based) and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed just such a screen. The vision-correcting display makes two modifications to a standard high-resolution smartphone or tablet screen. The first is a low-cost, pinhole-covered printed transparency that covers the screen. The second: algorithms coded into the smartphone or tablet that determine the viewer’s position relative to the screen and distort the image that is projected, according to his or her prescription. As the distorted image passes through the matrix of pinholes in the transparent screen cover, the hardware-software combination creates errors on the screen that cancel errors in the eye, thus delivering what appears to be a crisp image. The screen can correct for myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and more complicated vision problems. The team presented the work at the SIGGRAPH conference in August in Vancouver.

Informal tests on a handful of users have shown that the technology works, Wetzstein says, but large-scale studies are needed to further refine it. In the process, the researchers also plan on developing a slider that can be used to manually adjust the focus of the screen. Wetzstein says that the technology could be a boon for people in developing countries who have easier access to mobile devices than prescription eyewear.

For more info:  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/smartphone-screens-correct-for-your-vision-flaws/