TAG: "Eye care"

Discovery Eye Foundation makes $3M gift to Gavin Herbert Eye Institute

Award supports completion of campus home for UC Irvine Health facility, research.

Roger Steinert, UC Irvine

Roger Steinert, UC Irvine

The Discovery Eye Foundation – a Los Angeles-based organization that supports research, education, advocacy and treatment related to sight-threatening eye diseases – has awarded $3 million to the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, a part of UC Irvine Health. The gift provides $2 million to complete the UC Irvine campus facility, which opens in September, and $1 million to establish the Discovery Center for Eye Research within it.

“The goal of the building donation is to establish a home for this world-class eye institute – a place where ongoing research funded by the Discovery Eye Foundation will be translated into sight-saving treatments,” said Jack Schoellerman, chairman of the foundation board.

The Discovery Center for Eye Research is a novel collaboration between a private entity, the Discovery Eye Foundation, and the university-based Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. Schoellerman will serve as chair of the center, helping to define its role in sustaining current investigations and kick-starting promising new research. The center also plans to launch ophthalmology conferences at which research findings can be shared and new ideas stimulated.

“The Discovery Eye Foundation has funded the progress of many patient-oriented Gavin Herbert Eye Institute research programs, from a potential cure for ocular herpes to a proposed stem cell treatment for age-related macular degeneration,” said Dr. Roger Steinert, founding director of the institute. “We are grateful to the foundation for its generous investment in the future of eye health and look forward to exploring what we can accomplish together through the Discovery Center for Eye Research.”

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Guide to buying sunglasses

Berkeley Wellness offers tips for what to look for in sunglasses.

Woman wearing sunglassesMany people choose sunglasses by how they look and feel. But the most important feature to consider is how well they shield your eyes from ultraviolet rays (high-frequency invisible energy emitted by the sun), as well as blue light (high-frequency visible light).

Chronic ultraviolet (UV) exposure is implicated in a range of eye conditions, including cataracts, benign growths on the surface of the eye, skin cancer on the eyelid and around the eyes and even melanoma of the eye itself. Blue light is particularly damaging to internal eye tissues and over time may permanently damage the retina, leading to macular degeneration.

Sun damage is cumulative, so the more time you spend outdoors with your eyes unprotected, the greater your lifetime risk. The good news is that it’s not hard to find affordable sunglasses that are fashion-forward and protective.

Read tips from Berkeley Wellness.

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Water flow in eye cells essential to lens health

UC Irvine study provides new insights into molecular mechanisms that can lead to cataracts.

CorneaBy understanding how water flows in and out of eye lens cells, UC Irvine and Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers are providing new insights into the underlying molecular mechanisms that can lead to cataracts.

James Hall, professor of physiology & biophysics, and colleagues identified how two proteins – aquaporin zero and calmodulin – interact to throw a molecular switch that controls the flow of water through the cell membrane, working much like a gate valve in a plumbing fixture.

Proper hydration of the membrane helps assure good cell health, and any disruption in this flow or its regulation results in cataract formation.

“We know that defects in aquaporin zero lead to congenital cataracts. Our study makes a step toward understanding how cataracts form and, we hope, learning how to prevent or delay them,” said Hall. He teamed with HHMI’s Tamir Gonen to lead the study, which appears online in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.

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Eye specialist to develop novel eye imaging technologies

UC Davis scientist receives award from Research to Prevent Blindness.

Ala Moshiri, UC Davis

Ala Moshiri, UC Davis

UC Davis Health System’s Eye Center has received a $250,000 Career Development Award from Research to Prevent Blindness to support the research of Ala Moshiri, an assistant professor of ophthalmology and director of electrophysiology services at the Eye Center.

Moshiri is a specialist in all diseases of the retina, the complex tissue in the back of the eye that contains specialized photoreceptor cells called rods and cones. These photoreceptors connect to a network of nerve cells for processing visual information that is decoded by the brain into visual images.

The retina is susceptible to a variety of diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, retinitis pigmentosa and other inherited retinal degenerations, each of which can lead to vision loss or complete blindness. Malfunctioning and death of rod and cone photoreceptor cells is at the core of all of these retinal conditions.

According to the National Eye Institute, one of the major achievements in biology has been defining the cellular events involved in the process of visual transduction — the process by which photoreceptor cells in the eye capture light and initiate the electrical signals utilized by the brain in processing visual information.

As part of his Research to Prevent Blindness Career Development Award, Moshiri will develop novel technologies in functional imaging of photoreceptor diseases in animal models and humans. He will focus on developing molecular fluorescence resonance energy transfer sensors to capture signals in the cycle of vision to assess retinoid function under healthy and diseased conditions.

“At this point, there is no technology to directly assess the health and function of rod and cone photoreceptors,” said Moshiri. “The ongoing work in the lab is aimed at developing these molecular sensors in order to detect and confirm the health of photoreceptor cells and to verify that they are sensing light in a healthy way. This technology will give us more information about all diseases of the retina and will help pave the way to develop and test new therapies, including stem cell therapies, for virtually all retinal problems.”

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Researchers develop easy, effective therapy to restore sight

New procedure is quick and surgically non-invasive.

David Schaffer, UC Berkeley

Researchers at UC Berkeley have developed an easier and more effective method for inserting genes into eye cells that could greatly expand gene therapy to help restore sight to patients with blinding diseases ranging from inherited defects like retinitis pigmentosa to degenerative illnesses of old age, such as macular degeneration.

Unlike current treatments, the new procedure is quick and surgically non-invasive, and it delivers normal genes to hard-to-reach cells throughout the entire retina.

Over the last six years, several groups have successfully treated people with a rare inherited eye disease by injecting a virus with a normal gene directly into the retina of an eye with a defective gene. Despite the invasive process, the virus with the normal gene was not capable of reaching all the retinal cells that needed fixing.

“Sticking a needle through the retina and injecting the engineered virus behind the retina is a risky surgical procedure,” said David Schaffer, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of the Berkeley Stem Cell Center at UC Berkeley. “But doctors have no choice, because none of the gene delivery viruses can travel all the way through the back of the eye to reach the photoreceptors – the light sensitive cells that need the therapeutic gene.

“Building upon 14 years of research, we have now created a virus that you just inject into the liquid vitreous humor inside the eye, and it delivers genes to a very difficult-to-reach population of delicate cells in a way that is surgically non-invasive and safe. “It’s a 15-minute procedure, and you can likely go home that day.”

The engineered virus works far better than current therapies in rodent models of two human degenerative eye diseases, and can penetrate photoreceptor cells in monkeys’ eyes, which are like those of humans.

Schaffer said he and his team are now collaborating with physicians to identify the patients most likely to benefit from this gene delivery technique and, after some preclinical development, hope soon to head into clinical trials.

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Researchers find diminished balance in those with poor vision

UC Davis study has important implications for improving balance and preventing falls.

UC Davis Health System Eye Center research has found that visually impaired individuals and those with uncorrected refractive error — those who could benefit from glasses to achieve normal vision but don’t wear glasses — have a significantly greater risk of diminished balance with their eyes closed on a compliant, foam surface than individuals with normal vision.

The research, published in today’s (June 6) issue of JAMA Ophthalmology, suggests that vision may play an important role in calibrating the vestibular system, which includes the bones and soft tissue of the inner ear, to help optimize physical balance. The work provides direction for more targeted studies on how poor vision impacts vestibular balance, and how to better develop fall prevention strategies for those with poor vision.

“We know that vision and balance are highly integrated in the brain, but we don’t fully understand the relative contributions of the visual, proprioceptive, and vestibular systems in maintaining balance and preventing falls, especially among the visually impaired,” said Jeffrey R. Willis, an ophthalmology resident at UC Davis Health System Eye Center and lead author of the study.

“Our research is the first large scale population study to compare objective measures of physical balance across individuals with normal vision, uncorrected refractive error, and the visually impaired, and the first to link poor vision with diminished vestibular balance,” he said. “These results have important implications for improving balance and mobility in the U.S. population and preventing falls.”

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UC Davis Eye Center leader recognized for contributions to ophthalmology

Mark Mannis named to University of Florida medical college’s Walk of Fame.

Mark Mannis, UC Davis

Mark J. Mannis, director of the UC Davis Eye Center, has been named to the University of Florida College of Medicine’s Wall of Fame.

Mannis is professor and chair of ophthalmology and vision science and a 1975 graduate of the University of Florida medical college. He joins 24 fellow alumni who have been recognized for outstanding contributions since 1991 when the award was established.

Mannis was honored for his leadership and scientific contributions in the field of corneal transplantation as well as for his commitment to ophthalmic education in the United States and throughout the world. He has published more than 125 papers and is the author of five books on topics relating to corneal surgery and disease.

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Behind the bionic eye

Farsighted engineer invents bionic eye to help the blind.

For UCLA bioengineering professor Wentai Liu, more than two decades of visionary research burst into the headlines last month when the FDA approved what it called “the first bionic eye for the blind.”

The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System — developed by a team of physicians and engineers from around the country, including from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and UC Santa Cruz — aids adults who have lost their eyesight due to retinitis pigmentosa (RP), age-related macular degeneration or other eye diseases that destroy the retina’s light-sensitive photoreceptors.

At the heart of the device is a tiny yet powerful computer chip developed by Liu that, when implanted in the retina, effectively sidesteps the damaged photoreceptors to “trick” the eye into seeing. The Argus II operates with a miniature video camera mounted on a pair of eyeglasses that sends information about images it detects to a microprocessor worn on the user’s waistband. The microprocessor wirelessly transmits electronic signals to the computer chip, a fingernail-size grid made up of 60 circuits. These chips stimulate the retina’s nerve cells with electronic impulses which head up the optic nerve to the brain’s visual cortex. There, the brain assembles them into a composite image.

Recipients of the retinal implant can read oversized letters of the alphabet, discern objects and movement, and even see the outlines and some details of faces. And while the picture is far from perfect — the healthy human eye sees at a much higher resolution — it’s a breakthrough for people like the first patient, a man in his 70s who was blinded at age 20 by RP, to receive the implant in clinical trials. “It was the first time he’d seen light in a half-century,” said Liu, adding that “it feels good as the engineer” to have helped make this possible.

Liu joined the Artificial Retina Project in 1988 as a professor of computer and electrical engineering at North Carolina State University. The multidisciplinary research project was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science because it envisioned a potential pandemic of eyesight loss in America’s aging population. Leading the project was Duke University ophthalmologist and neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Humayun, now on faculty at USC. He tapped Liu to engineer the artificial retina.

“I thought it was a great idea,” Liu said. “But I asked, ‘What can I do?’ because I didn’t know much about biology.” Humayun handed him a six-inch-thick medical manual on the retina. “The learning curve was very steep,” Liu recalled with a laugh.

However, Liu’s fellow engineers questioned his sanity. “I was working on integrated chip design and had just gotten tenure when I signed on to this project. They said, ‘You’re crazy!’ But I’m glad I made that choice, getting into this new field.”

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FDA approves bionic eye that Livermore Lab, UC Santa Cruz helped develop

Artificial retina can partially restore sight of blind individuals after surgical implantation.

Argus II: A retinal prosthesis contains a small implantable chip with electrodes.These electrodes stimulate the retina and help people regain limited vision.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Thursday that its support for a decade of revolutionary research has contributed to the creation of the first ever retinal prothesis — or bionic eye — to be approved in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for blind individuals with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa.

LLNL engineers played a key role in the project by developing the microelectrode array for the epiretinal prosthesis.

The artificial retina, dubbed the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System (developed and manufactured by Second Sight Medical Products Inc. of Sylmar), may prove to be an aid to those blinded by the disease retinitis pigmentosa, which can run in families and is estimated by the National Institutes of Health to affect about 1 in 4,000 people in the United States. Over the 10-year lifetime of the project, the department provided $75.2 million for the development of technologies aimed at advancing artificial retinas like the Argus II, which was based on work by a consortium of scientists using advanced technologies developed by several of the department’s national laboratories.

“The team was very passionate about this project because there is such a need for a device like this,” said Satinderpall Pannu, the engineer who led the Livermore team. “While we were developing the technology, we received a lot of plaintive e-mails from people around the world who wanted to be a part of the clinical trials or who were just looking for a ray of hope for themselves or their children. It is most gratifying to see this device finally become available to the people who need it and provide them with the hope of a better tomorrow.”

The Argus II can partially restore the sight of blind individuals after surgical implantation. Clinical trials demonstrated that totally blind individuals could safely use the device to successfully identify the position and approximate size of objects and detect movement of nearby objects and people.

Expertise in biomedical microsystems at Lawrence Livermore’s Center for Micro and Nano Technology was tapped to develop a “flexible microelectrode array,” able to conform to the curved shape of the retina, without damaging the delicate retinal tissue, and to integrate electronics developed by UC Santa Cruz. The device serves as the interface between an electronic imaging system and the human eye, directly stimulating neurons via thin film conducting traces and electroplated electrodes.

The multi-institutional team that developed the artificial retina received a Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award in 2010. In 2009, the team also received an R&D 100 Award from R&D Magazine. The Livermore team was led by Satinderpall Pannu and included: Phillipe Tabada, Courtney Davidson, Terri Delima, Sarah Felix, Julie Hamilton, William Benett, Kedar Shah, Maxim Shusteff, Vanessa Tolosa and Angela Tooker.

The LLNL team contributed three major components to the artificial retina program: the thin-film electrode array that contains the neural electrodes; the biocompatible electronics package that contains the electronics for stimulating the retina and wireless power and communications; and an ocular surgical tool that will enable the replacement of the thin-film electrode array. In addition, Lawrence Livermore was responsible for the system integration and assembly of the next generation artificial retina system.

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UC Irvine’s Herbert Eye Institue receives $3M grant

Beckman Foundation funding will be used explore blindness-prevention therapies.

The first-floor Gavin Herbert Eye Institute clinical center will be named the Arnold & Mabel Beckman Foundation Center for Vision Care in honor of the late inventor and his wife.

The Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, which is part of UC Irvine Health, has been awarded a $3 million grant from the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation for fellowships and instruments that advance research to prevent blindness caused by such diseases as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

“We are grateful to the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation for demonstrating confidence in the quality of scientific discovery taking place at the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute,” said Dr. Roger Steinert, professor and chair of ophthalmology and director of the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute. “Researchers here share the late Dr. Beckman’s commitment to excellence and will use this grant to strategically support our bold goal of eradicating blindness by 2020.”

The Beckman Foundation grant includes $1 million for state-of-the-art instruments designed to perform promising medical procedures such as stem cell transplantation for retinal degeneration.

Dr. Henry Klassen, associate professor of ophthalmology, and his Gavin Herbert Eye Institute team have shown that stem cells can repair damaged retinal cells in retinitis pigmentosa, the most common form of inherited retinal degeneration. If proven effective in humans, this treatment could change what it means to be diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, a disease that affects the vision of 1 in 27 Americans.

The other $2 million from the Beckman Foundation grant establishes fellowships for young researchers to contribute to stem cell studies and other exciting new avenues of eye research. Working alongside some of the nation’s leading ophthalmologists, these fellows will participate in the discovery process and learn the latest clinical procedures in vision care.

An earlier grant from the Beckman Foundation provided $2 million to support construction of a new center for the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute on the UC Irvine campus. The 70,000-square-foot medical facility, which is slated to open for patients in September, includes design features recommended by the Braille Institute that will make it easier for low-vision patients to navigate within the building. The first-floor clinical center will be named the Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation Center for Vision Care in honor of the late inventor and his wife. The building, which is funded entirely through local private philanthropy, will be Orange County’s first university eye center.

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Doctor-scientist gave gift of vision to millions of children

UCLA eye surgeon Leonard Apt dead at age 90.

Leonard Apt, UCLA

Leonard Apt

Internationally respected UCLA eye surgeon Dr. Leonard Apt, who co-developed an inexpensive antiseptic eye drop that substantially reduced the incidence of blindness in children in developing countries, died Feb. 1 at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, after a brief illness. He was 90.

A founding member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA and an emeritus professor of ophthalmology, Apt was the first physician in the world to become board-certified in both pediatrics and ophthalmology. He devoted his career to preventing blindness in children.

Together with longtime collaborator Dr. Sherwin Isenberg, Apt identified povidone–iodine as a safe topical antimicrobial agent. Prior to their research, no previous studies provided a standard for sterilizing the surface of the eye before surgery. Known commercially as Betadine, the eye drop is now used throughout the world to prepare patients for eye surgery and prevent infection. Apt and Isenberg also demonstrated that Betadine was safer, cheaper and more effective than silver nitrate or antibiotics in preventing eye disease in newborns.

“Leonard described himself as ‘a man of firsts,’ and he really was,” said Isenberg, UCLA’s Laraine and David Gerber Professor of Ophthalmology and chief of ophthalmology at Los Angeles County Harbor–UCLA Medical Center. ”He had very clever ideas and constantly looked for meaningful ways to improve patient care on a large scale. His prolific research resulted in innovations in pediatrics and ophthalmology that are now used all over the world.”

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$2.5M NIH grant supports research on retinal disease

Potential to restore retinal function after injury or disease.

Alexander Sher, UC Santa Cruz

Alexander Sher, assistant professor of physics, has received a grant totaling $2.5 million over five years from the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The grant supports Sher’s research on how the retina heals itself after laser surgery.

Sher uses custom-designed arrays of microscopic electrodes to study the activity of retinal neurons. He contributed to recent research showing that light-sensitive photoreceptors can migrate into retinal lesions caused by selective laser photocoagulation and reconnect with retinal neurons to fill in blind spots. Last year, he received funding as a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences for a project to further explore how the retina responds to this laser treatment. The new NIH grant provides major funding for Sher’s ongoing investigation of the potential to restore retinal function after injury or disease.

“Our earlier findings demonstrated that the retina has the potential for constructive plasticity that was never observed or even suspected before,” Sher said. “Our goal is to establish the mechanism and the limits of this new and exciting phenomenon.”

Laser photocoagulation is widely used to treat retinal diseases, but side effects of the current standard method include retinal scarring and blind spots. A new approach, using shorter pulses of laser light, destroys photoreceptor cells but leaves underlying retinal neurons intact. Sher has documented the migration of photoreceptor cells into the lesion, where they establish new connections with inner-retinal neurons.

“The newly discovered phenomenon of photoreceptor migration and rewiring may enable restoration of visual function in retinal lesions,” Sher said.

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