Potential Sixth Sense for the Blind

April 17, 2015

When a microstimulator and geomagnetic compass were attached to the brains of blind rats, researchers found that the rodents learned to use new information about their location, and navigate through a maze nearly as well as normally sighted rats.

Japanese experiment suggests a future neuroprosthesis might help blind people walk freely in the world

This discovery suggests that a similar kind of neuroprosthesis for humans might one day help the visually impaired walk freely through the world.

One of the highlights from the study was the details surrounding the remarkable flexibility of the mammalian brain.

“The most remarkable point of this paper is to show the potential, or the latent ability, of the brain,” says Yuji Ikegaya of the University of Tokyo. “That is, we demonstrated that the mammalian brain is flexible even in adulthood — enough to adaptively incorporate a novel, never-experienced, non-inherent modality into the pre-existing information sources.”

Ikegaya went on to explain that the brains of the animals they studied were ready and willing to fill in “the ‘world’ drawn by the five senses” with a new sensory input.

It’s worth noting that it was never the intention of Ikegaya and his colleague Hiroaki Norimoto to restore vision; rather, they wanted to restore the blind rats’ allocentric sense. For those unfamiliar, the allocentric sense is what allows animals and people to recognize the position of their body within the environment. Ikegaya and Norimoto wanted to know what would happen if the animals could “see” a geomagnetic signal. Specifically, would this signal fill in for the animals’ lost sight, and would the animals know what to do with the information?

For more info:  http://www.electronicproducts.com/Biotech/Research/By_attaching_a_geomagnetic_compass_to_the_brain_of_a_blind_rat_rodent_acts_like_it_can_see.aspx


Calcium Supplements Tied to Macular Degeneration

April 11, 2015

Older people who take more than 800 milligrams of calcium a day are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that causes severevision loss, according to a new study in JAMA Ophthalmology.

The link was found only in people 68 and older.

The research doesn’t prove cause and effect but does promote caution to avoid overdosing calcium supplements.

for more info: http://www.webmd.com/eye-health/macular-degeneration/news/20150410/calcium-supplements-amd

Stem Cells Allow Nearly Blind Patients to See

April 2, 2015

In a report published in the journal Lancet, scientists led by Dr. Robert Lanza, chief scientific officer at Advanced Cell Technology, provide the first evidence that stem cells from human embryos can be a safe and effective source of therapies for two types of eye diseases—age-related macular degeneration, the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 60, and Stargardt’s macular dystrophy, a rarer, inherited condition that can leave patients legally blind and only able to sense hand motions.

The trial is the only one approved by the Food and Drug Administration involving human embryonic stem cells as a treatment. (Another, the first to gain the agency’s approval, involved using human embryonic stem cells to treat spinal cord injury, but was stopped by the company.) Because the stem cells come from unrelated donors, and because they can grow into any of the body’s many cells types, experts have been concerned about their risks, including the possibility of tumors and immune rejection.

For more info:  http://time.com/3507094/stem-cells-eyesight/

FDA approves new treatment for diabetic retinopathy

April 1, 2015

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today expanded the approved use for Eylea (aflibercept) injection to treat diabetic retinopathy in patients with diabetic macular edema. In February, the FDA approved Lucentis (ranibizumab injection) 0.3 mg to treat DR in patients with DME.

In 2008, 33 percent of adults with diabetes aged 40 years or older had some form of DR. In some cases of DR with diabetic macular edema (DME), abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. Severe vision loss or blindness can occur if the new blood vessels break.

Eylea is administered by a physician as an injection into the eye once a month for the first five injections and then once every two months. It is intended to be used along with appropriate interventions to control blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol.

For more info: http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm439838.htm