Could following the Mediterranean diet prevent blindness?

The evidence is in and it shows that a poor diet plays a big role in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the US.  A large collaboration of researchers from the EU investigated the connection between genes and lifestyle on the development of AMD has found that people who followed a Mediterranean diet cut their risk of late-stage AMD by 41% This research expanded on previous studies and suggests that such a diet is beneficial for everyone, whether you already have the disease or are at risk of developing it.

A Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating less meat and more fish, vegetables, fruits, legumes, unrefined grains, and olive oil. Previous research had linked it to a longer lifespan and a reduced incidence of heart disease and cognitive decline. Previous studies also showed following this diet can help with certain types of AMD, but only focused on different stages of the disease.

By combining this earlier research on AMD with the latest data, a clear picture emerges: Diet has the potential to prevent a blinding disease.

AMD is a degenerative eye disease. It causes loss of central vision, which is crucial for simple everyday activities, such as the ability to see faces, drive, read, and write. It’s a leading cause of vision loss among people age 50 and older, affecting 1.8 million Americans. By 2020, that number is expected to climb to nearly 3 million.

In this study, researchers analyzed food-frequency questionnaires from nearly 5,000 people who participated in two previous investigations — the Rotterdam Study, which evaluated disease risk in people age 55 and older, and the Alienor Study, which assessed the association between eye diseases and nutritional factors in people aged 73 and older. Patients in the Rotterdam study were examined and completed food questionnaires every five years over a 21-year period, while patients in the Alienor Study were seen every two years over a 4-year period. The researchers found that those who closely followed the diet were 41%  less likely to develop AMD compared with those who did not follow the diet.

They also found that none of the individual components of a Mediterranean diet on their own — fish, fruit, vegetables, etc. — lowered the risk of AMD. Rather, it was the entire pattern of eating a nutrient-rich diet that significantly reduced the risk of late AMD.

There are two kinds of AMD — dry and wet. The dry type affects about 80 to 90 percent of people with AMD. In dry AMD, small white or yellowish deposits, called drusen, form on the retina, causing it to deteriorate over time. In the wet form, blood vessels grow under the retina and leak. While there is an effective treatment available for the wet type, there is no treatment available for dry AMD.

So remember you are what you eat!

To read the original article in its entirety, click here. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181001101940.htm

Biomarkers could aid in early detection of glaucoma

Researchers bred mice in which the gene PTP-Meg2 (protein tyrosine phosphatase megakaryocyte 2) was mutated. As a result, the animals suffered from chronic intraocular pressure elevation. The research team successfully demonstrated that, in their model, the intraocular pressure elevation was associated with a loss of optic nerve fibers and retinal cells. They also observed that retinal cells were unable to function properly. They further discovered glial cells and certain components of the immune system showed a reaction in the animals’ optic nerve and retina. As both aspects may be relevant for neurodegeneration, specific and early intervention into these cellular mechanisms could inhibit glaucoma.

By making use of a genetic screening, the researchers identified new potential biomarkers for glaucoma, which in the future, may facilitate early detection. As a result, it will be possible to start therapy at an earlier stage, before the optic nerve and retina are damaged. The glaucoma-mouse model may, moreover, be used to test new therapy options. So far intraocular pressure was reduced and nerve cells were retained in the mice if they were given a drug that has been used to treat human patients.

With more than 60 million patients, Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness worldwide. In Germany alone, there are one million patients — and the estimated number of unknown cases is likely to be much higher, due to the fact that symptoms often remain undetected during the early stage of the disease. In glaucoma patients, the optic nerve and the retinal nerve cells are damaged beyond repair.

To read the original article in its entirety, click here. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181025103308.htm

AMAZING: Congenital blindness reversed in mice!

Researchers funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI) have reversed congenital blindness in mice by changing supportive cells in the retina called Müller glia into rod photoreceptors. The findings advance efforts toward regenerative therapies for blinding diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

“This is the first report of scientists reprogramming Müller glia to become functional rod photoreceptors in the mammalian retina,” said Thomas N. Greenwell, Ph.D., NEI program director for retinal neuroscience. “Rods allow us to see in low light, but they may also help preserve cone photoreceptors, which are important for color vision and high visual acuity. Cones tend to die in later-stage eye diseases. If rods can be regenerated from inside the eye, this might be a strategy for treating diseases of the eye that affect photoreceptors.”

Photoreceptors are light-sensitive cells in the retina, located in the back of the eye, that signal the brain when activated. In mammals, including mice and humans, photoreceptors fail to regenerate on their own. Like most neurons, once mature they no longer divide.

Scientists have long studied the regenerative potential of Müller glia because in other species, such as zebrafish, they divide in response to injury and can turn into photoreceptors and other retinal neurons. The zebrafish can thus regain vision after severe retinal injury. In the lab, however, scientists can coax mammalian Müller glia to behave more like they do in the fish. But it requires injuring the tissue.

“From a practical standpoint, if you’re trying to regenerate the retina to restore a person’s vision, it is counterproductive to injure it first to activate the Müller glia,” said Bo Chen, Ph.D. “We wanted to see if we could program Müller glia to become rod photoreceptors in a living mouse without having to injure its retina,” said Chen, the study’s lead investigator.

In phase one of a two-phase reprogramming process Chen’s team spurred Müller glia in normal mice to divide by injecting their eyes with a gene to turn on a protein called beta-catenin. A few weeks later, in phase two, they injected the mice’s eyes with factors that encouraged the newly divided cells to develop into rod photoreceptors.

The researchers found that the newly formed rod photoreceptors looked structurally no different from real photoreceptors.  Additionally, synaptic structures that allow the rods to communicate with other types of neurons within the retina had also formed. To determine whether the Müller glia-derived rod photoreceptors were functional, they tested the treatment in mice with congenital blindness, which meant that they were born without functional rod photoreceptors.

In the treated mice that were born blind, Müller glia-derived rods developed just as effectively as they had in normal mice. Functionally, they confirmed that the newly formed rods were communicating with other types of retinal neurons across synapses. Furthermore, light responses recorded from retinal ganglion cells — neurons that carry signals from photoreceptors to the brain — and measurements of brain activity confirmed that the newly-formed rods were in fact integrating in the visual pathway circuitry, from the retina to the primary visual cortex in the brain.

Chen’s lab is conducting behavioral studies to determine whether the mice have gained the ability to perform visual tasks such as a water maze task. Chen also plans to see if the technique works on cultured human retinal tissue.

This is a fascinating development and one that we will definitely be following.

To read the original article in its entirety, click here. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180815130544.htm

Eye exams may one day predict Alzheimer’s

One day in the not too distant future, it may be possible to screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease using an eye exam.

By using technology similar to what is already found in many eye doctors’ offices, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have detected evidence suggesting Alzheimer’s in older patients who had no symptoms of the disease.

“This technique has great potential to become a screening tool that helps decide who should undergo more expensive and invasive testing for Alzheimer’s disease prior to the appearance of clinical symptoms,” said the study’s first author, Bliss E. O’Bryhim, MD, PhD,. “Our hope is to use this technique to understand who is accumulating abnormal proteins in the brain that may lead them to develop Alzheimer’s.”

Substantial brain damage from Alzheimer’s disease can occur years before any symptoms such as memory loss and cognitive decline appear. Scientists estimate that Alzheimer’s-related plaques can build up in the brain two decades before the onset of symptoms, so researchers have been looking for ways to detect the disease sooner.

Physicians now use PET scans and lumbar punctures to help diagnose Alzheimer’s, but they are both expensive and invasive.

Previous studies that involved examining the eyes of people who had died from Alzheimer’s had reported that the eyes of such patients showed signs of thinning in the center of the retina and degradation of the optic nerve.

In the new study, the researchers used a noninvasive technique — called optical coherence tomography angiography — to examine the retinas in eyes of 30 study participants with an average age in the mid 70s, none of whom exhibited clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

Those participants were patients in The Memory and Aging Project at Washington University’s Knight Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center

“In the patients with elevated levels of amyloid or tau, we detected significant thinning in the center of the retina,” said one of the researchers “All of us have a small area devoid of blood vessels in the center of our retinas that is responsible for our most precise vision. We found that this zone lacking blood vessels was significantly enlarged in people with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease.”

The eye test used in the study shines light into the eye, allowing a doctor to measure retinal thickness, as well as the thickness of fibers in the optic nerve. A form of that test often is currently available in some optometrist and most ophthalmologist’s offices. In fact, the Mettawa office of Visibly Better Eye Care has the OCT machine needed to perform this test, but as of yet they are not offering this service.

For purpose of this study, however, the researchers added a new component to the more common test: angiography, which allows doctors to distinguish red blood cells from other tissue in the retina.

“The angiography component allows us to look at blood-flow patterns,” said the other co-principal investigator said. “In the patients whose PET scans and cerebrospinal fluid showed preclinical Alzheimer’s, the area at the center of the retina without blood vessels was significantly larger, suggesting less blood flow.”

“The retina and central nervous system are so interconnected that changes in the brain could be reflected in cells in the retina.”

Of the patients studied, 17 had abnormal PET scans and/or lumbar punctures, and all of them also had retinal thinning and significant areas without blood vessels in the centers of their retinas. The retinas appeared normal in the patients whose PET scans and lumbar punctures were within the typical range.

“We know the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease starts to develop years before symptoms appear, but if we could use this eye test to notice when the pathology is beginning, it may be possible one day to start treatments sooner to delay further damage,” one of the researchers said.

To read the original article in its entirety, click here. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180823140921.htm

Eye infection in contact lens wearers due to poor hygiene can cause blindness

There are reports of an outbreak of a rare but essentially preventable eye infection that can cause blindness, identified in contact lens wearers in a new study led by UCL and Moorfields Eye Hospital researchers. The research team found a threefold increase in Acanthamoeba keratitis since 2011 in South-East England.

The findings showed that reusable contact lens wearers with the eye infection were more likely to have used an ineffective contact lens solution, have contaminated their lenses with water or reported poor contact lens hygiene. “This infection is still quite rare, usually affecting 2.5 in 100,000 contact lens users per year in South East England, but it’s largely preventable. This increase in cases highlights the need for contact lens users to be aware of the risks,” said the study’s lead author, Professor John Dart (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust).

Acanthamoeba keratitis is an eye disease that causes the front surface of the eye, the cornea, to become painful and inflamed, due to infection by Acanthamoeba, a cyst-forming microorganism.

The most severely affected patients (a quarter of the total) have less than 25% of vision or become blind following the disease and face prolonged treatment. Overall 25% of people affected require corneal transplants to treat the disease or restore vision.

Anyone can be infected, but research shows that contact lens users face the highest risk, due to a combination of increased exposure to infection, for reasons not fully established, as a result of contact lens wear and contamination of lens cases.

Alongside these findings, they conducted a case-control study of people who wear reusable contact lenses on a daily basis (although the disease is also associated with disposable lenses), comparing those who had a diagnosis of Acanthamoeba keratitis to those who had come in to Moorfields A&E for any other reason, from 2011 to 2014.

The case-control study included 63 people with Acanthamoeba keratitis and 213 without. They all completed a questionnaire, from which the researchers found that the risk of developing the disease was more than three times greater amongst people with poor contact lens hygiene, people who did not always wash and dry their hands before handling their lenses, those who used a lens disinfectant product containing Oxipol (now phased out by the manufacturer), and for people who wore their contacts while in swimming pools or hot tubs. Showering and face washing while wearing contact lenses are also likely to be risk factors.

Acanthamoeba is more commonly found in the UK than in other countries, likely due to higher levels found in domestic (as opposed to mains) water supplies, so that water contamination of contact lenses is of particular concern in the UK.

The researchers say the current outbreak is unlikely to be due to any one of the identified risk factors in isolation.

“People who wear reusable contact lenses need to make sure they thoroughly wash and dry their hands before handling contact lenses, and avoid wearing them while swimming, face washing or bathing. Daily disposable lenses, which eliminate the need for contact lens cases or solutions, may be safer and we are currently analysing our data to establish the risk factors for these,” said Professor Dart.

To read to original article in its entirety, click here. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/09/180921082952.htm

 

Human retinas grown in a dish show how color vision develops

Human retinas were grown from scratch by biologists at Johns Hopkins University to determine how cells that allow people to see color develop.

The research lays the foundation for researchers to develop therapies for eye diseases such as color blindness and macular degeneration.

“Everything we examine looks like a normal developing eye, just growing in a dish,” said Robert Johnston, a developmental biologist at Johns Hopkins. “You have a model system that you can manipulate without studying humans directly.”

Johnston’s lab explores what happens in the womb to turn a developing cell into a specific type of cell, an aspect of human biology that is largely unknown.

Johnston and his team focused on the cells that allow people to see blue, red and green — the three cone photoreceptors in the human eye.

Previously the majority of vision research has been on mice and fish, neither of these species has the dynamic daytime and color vision of humans. So Johnston’s team had to create the human eyes they needed — with stem cells.

“Trichromatic color vision delineates us from most other mammals,” said lead author Kiara Eldred, a Johns Hopkins graduate student. “Our research is really trying to figure out what pathways these cells take to give us that special color vision.”

Over several months, as the cells grew in the lab and became full-blown retinas, the team found the blue-detecting cells materialized first, followed by the red- and green-detecting ones. They found the key to the molecular switch was the ebb and flow of thyroid hormone. Important to note is the level of this hormone wasn’t controlled by the thyroid gland, which of course isn’t in the dish, but entirely by the eye itself.

“What’s exciting about this is our work establishes human organoids as a model system to study mechanisms of human development,” Johnston said. “What’s really pushing the limit here is that these organoids take nine months to develop just like a human baby. So what we’re really studying is fetal development.”

This groundbreaking work can lead to all sorts of applications is the vision deficiency arena.

To read the article in its entirety click here.  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181011143112.htm

A common Diabetes medication may actually help prevent development of Macular Degeneration, a common cause of blindness

According to an article published on October 29, 2018 by American Academy of Ophthalmology Researchers from Taiwan have shown that people with type-2 diabetes who were treated with Metformin showed a significantly lower rate of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).The study further suggests that the anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects of metformin can protect against AMD while also controlling diabetes. The research was presented at AAO 2018, the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

It has been long known that inflammation and oxidative stress play a key role in the development of both diabetes and AMD. Since metformin suppresses inflammation and oxidative stress, researchers in Taiwan theorized that it was possible that the diabetes drug could also protect against AMD, one of the leading causes of blindness in Americans over age 50, currently affecting about 2.1 million people in the United States alone.

The researchers used the Taiwan National Health Insurance Research Database, to collect data on all patients recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes from January 2001 to December 2013, dividing them into two groups: Those who took metformin (45,524 patients) and those who did not (22,681 patients). After following both groups for 13 years, the researchers found that patients in the metformin group had a significantly lower risk of developing AMD. In fact, half as many patients in the metformin group had AMD compared to the control group.

“Our study is the first to reveal the protective effect of metformin on the development of AMD,” said lead investigator, Yu-Yen Chen, M.D. “While more study is required to determine just how metformin protects against the development of AMD, this is an exciting development for patients at risk.”

AMD is a degenerative disease that happens when part of the retina called the macula is damaged. It’s the part of the eye that delivers sharp, central vision needed to see objects straight ahead. Over time, the loss of central vision can interfere with everyday activities, such as the ability to drive, read, and see faces clearly.

Diabetes is a complex disease that can result from, genetics, environment, lifestyle factors, such as smoking and diet, and involve systemic diseases like heart disease. How the diabetes develops is not fully understood, but researchers have shown that oxidative stress and inflammation play a critical role in the development and progression of AMD. Drusen formation, the earliest clinical finding, has been shown to result from a localized inflammatory response.

The research on Metformin provides a hope that blindness need not be an eventuality for most people afflicted with diabetes.

Read Original Article:  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181029102836.htm

Wearable Computer Gloves ‘Teach Braille’ Passively

More than 39 million people around the world are blind. But for about 10% of these individuals, Braille – a reading and writing system that utilizes a series of raised dots that represent letters, numbers and punctuation – is a valuable tool. Braille is something lacking in most school systems, and is difficult to learn as we grow older when the majority of blindness occurs. So could this new wearable glove be the solution to teaching Braille to the larger vision –impaired population?

Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a wearable computer glove that can teach braille, even when the user’s attention is on another activity. The research team – including Thad Starner, a professor at Georgia Tech and a technical/lead manager on Google’s Project Glass – first created a technology-enhanced glove back in 2008, called Piano Touch. The glove could teach individuals how to play piano melodies in 45 minutes.

Their latest creation is an improvement on Piano Touch, which has been built around a process called passive haptic learning (PHL) – the idea that people can learn a skill unconsciously without devoting full attention to what they are learning.

For their study, participants were required to wear the gloves during a series of tasks. The gloves consist of small vibrating motors that are stitched into the knuckles.

Computer Gloves

Image credit: Georgia Tech.

In the first task, the motors in the glove vibrated in a sequence that mimicked a typing pattern of a premeditated phrase in Braille. The participants were given audio cues that let them know what Braille letters were produced through typing the sequence.

Each participant was then required to type the phrase once on a keyboard without any vibrations or audio cues while the researchers measured their accuracy.

In the next task, participants played a computer game for 30 minutes – as a distraction – while wearing the glove. Half of the participants were presented with repeated vibrations and audio cues that represented the same Braille phrase as the previous task, while the remaining participants acted as a control group and were only given audio cues.

The subjects had no previous knowledge of Braille and the tasks did not include visual feedback, meaning participants were unaware of their accuracy. On comparing the participants’ results with those of the first task, the team found that those in the control group had about the same level of accuracy.

However, those who had repeated vibrations and audio cues in the second task were 30% more accurate, with some even gaining 100% accuracy. Furthermore, the researchers found that these participants were then able to effectively go from writing Braille to reading it.

“After the typing test, passive learners were able to read and recognize more than 70% of the phrase’s letters,” says study co-author Caitlyn Seim, a student at Georgia Tech.

Seim is now in the process of conducting another study, which involves using the glove to teach the full Braille alphabet to participants. She says that so far, 75% of subjects have demonstrated perfect typing accuracy. In addition, participants were able to recognize and read more than 90% of Braille letters after 4 hours of learning.

To read the original article, please click here:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/278719.php

 

Do Your Eye Movements Say You Are in Love or Lust?

Eye Movements

Have you ever been on a date and wondered if the other person was romantically or sexually attracted to you?  Well, wonder no more!  Researchers studying eye patterns have found that where your date focuses their eyes on you could reveal whether he or she is romantically or sexually attracted.

Specifically, the findings reveal that eye patterns center on a stranger’s face if the viewer regards that person as a potential romantic love partner, whereas the viewer focuses more on the other person’s body when the feeling is one of sexual desire. Though this may seem like an obvious progression, researchers say that automatic judgment can happen as quickly as half a second, producing contrasting gaze patterns.

The research team, from the University of Chicago, has published their results in the journal Psychological Science.

For this study, researchers had male and female university students view a series of black-and-white photos of strangers. The participants examined photos of young, adult heterosexual couples who were interacting with each other. Then, in another part of the study, the participants looked at photos of attractive people of the opposite sex who were looking directly at the camera.

None of these photos contained nudity or erotic images, note the researchers.

For both parts of the study, the participants sat in front of a computer and were asked to decide as quickly as possible whether the people in the photos drew out feelings of sexual desire or romantic love.

The time it took for the subjects to identify romantic love versus sexual desire did not differ significantly, which the researchers say shows that the brain can quickly process both emotions.

However, after analyzing the eye-tracking data, the researchers found that people tended to fixate their eyes on the face when the image evoked a feeling of romantic love, whereas when the images elicited sexual desire, the viewers’ eyes moved from the face to focus on the rest of the body.

And this result was the same for both male and female participants.

So, if you are wondering what someone’s thoughts are about you upon first meeting you…check out their eye movement!

To read the original article, please click here:

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279860.php

Vision-Correcting Displays Makes Reading Glasses Like So Yesterday!

What if computer screens corrected to your specific vision? It may happen sooner than you think!

The researchers at University California -Berkley are developing computer algorithms that compensate for an individual’s visual impairment, creating vision-correcting displays that enable users to see text and images clearly without wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses. This technology could potentially help hundreds of millions of people who currently need corrective lenses to use their smart phones, tablets and computers. One group who would benefit greatly, for example, are those afflicted with presbyopia, a type of farsightedness in which the ability to focus on nearby objects is gradually diminished as the aging eyes’ lenses lose elasticity. You all know who I am talking about…. The people with the Walgreen’s reading glasses that they need to read a text, a phone number, an email, etc.

Vision-Correcting Display

Perhaps more importantly, the displays could one day aid people with more complex visual problems, known as high order aberrations, which cannot be corrected by eyeglasses, said Brian Barsky, UC Berkeley professor of computer science and vision science, and affiliate professor of optometry.

“We now live in a world where displays are ubiquitous, and being able to interact with displays is taken for granted,” said Barsky, who is leading this project. “People with higher order aberrations often have irregularities in the shape of the cornea, and this irregular shape makes it very difficult to have a contact lens that will fit. In some cases, this can be a barrier to holding certain jobs because many workers need to look at a screen as part of their work. This research could transform their lives, and I am passionate about that potential.”

This latest approach improves upon earlier versions of vision-correcting displays that resulted in low-contrast images. The new display combines light field display optics with novel algorithms.

Huang, now a software engineer at Microsoft Corp. in Seattle, noted that the research prototype could easily be developed into a thin screen protector, and that continued improvements in eye-tracking technology would make it easier for the displays to adapt to the position of the user’s head position.

“In the future, we also hope to extend this application to multi-way correction on a shared display, so users with different visual problems can view the same screen and see a sharp image,” said Huang.

As more and more applications are being found for IPAD’s and Smart Phones are becoming much more common place, this is indeed a timely advancement.

The National Science Foundation helped support this work.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6V2x3nLQdA0

To read the original article, please click here:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140729152921.htm