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doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e318234bc18
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Highlights of This Month's Annual Academy Meeting in Boston

Plenary Session: Today's Research, Tomorrow's Practice®: Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Wednesday, October 12

In the tradition of bringing the latest on an important general health issue, the topic for the Boston Plenary Session is Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI). Attendees will gain an overview of this major health problem. Douglas Smith, MD, Director, Center for Brain Injury and Repair, University of Pennsylvania, will provide an overview of the condition of mTBI, including the clinical presentation, evaluation, and insights about the clinical complications. This will be followed by a presentation by William Milberg, PhD, and Regina McGlinchey, PhD, of Harvard Medical School, on the effects of mTBI as they exist in a complex matrix of biological, psychological, and social issues.

Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are suffering from the effects of highly traumatizing events and exposure to high-energy blasts that often leave them with cognitive and emotional problems that make readjustment to civilian life very difficult. Their studies of this population can provide insights into the mechanisms of symptom development and recovery in mTBI in the non-military population.

Monroe J. Hirsch Research Symposium:“Omics”

Thursday, October 13

The study of biological “omics” has been exponentially increasing the last decade, particularly as it relates to new scientific technologies that have revolutionized these fields of study. The “omics” fields extend beyond genomics and into areas such as lipidomics, glycomics, and proteomics in addition to many other areas, although proteomics is often considered the next logical sequential step beyond genomics studies. Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins, which includes the entire body of proteins expressed by a cell or system in terms of structure and function. Although these “omics” fields are extensions of genomics, they are often considered more challenging fields of study as a system's genome is usually fairly constant, whereas its proteome, for example, can differ from cell to cell.

Attendees will hear discussions about the scientific “omics” fields of study, with particular emphasis on proteomics, in addition to discussing their applications to ophthalmic research and ultimately clinical practice. The following will be the Featured speakers:

  • Steven A. Carr, PhD, a senior scientific leader in protein biochemistry and proteomics, leads the Proteomics Platform at the Broad Institute.
  • Pablo Argeso, PhD, of the Schepens Eye Research Institute, whose research focuses on one of the last frontiers of molecular biology-glycobiology analyzes the sugars that coat the surface of the eye and deciphers their role in protecting the eye against dehydration and pathogen invasion.
  • Tom Norton, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, studies the neurobiological mechanism that operates in the juvenile eye.
  • Richard Lee, MD, PhD, a researcher at the McKnight Vision Research Center, focuses on the molecular, cellular, proteomic, and neurophysiologic basis of glaucoma in experimental and human models.
  • Awards Program and Lectures

Friday, October 14

Attendees are invited to celebrate this year's highly respected award recipients by attending the annual Academy Awards Program. The excitement and camaraderie will be obvious as their colleagues honor the finest in the profession.

The Awards are highlighted by two special Award talks:

The American Academy of Optometry's top Award, the Charles F. Prentice Medal Award and the prestigious Glenn A. Fry Award recipients will give exciting lecture presentations on their research findings. Continental breakfast is provided during the Awards program. Attending the 2-hour program provides 1 hour of CE credit.

Optometry and Vision Science Reviewers Alerted to Free On-line Course

Early in August, Optometry and Vision Science (OVS) Editor-in-Chief, Tony Adams, alerted all reviewers and editors of OVS about a free course offered by the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group. But, the Editor is recommending the on-line course to all those who are interested in peer review and perhaps becoming peer reviewers for journals. Our own Academy President is one of the lecturers!

This is how Kay Dickersin, PhD, Director, CEVG@U.S. and Kristina Lindsley, Methodologist, CEVG@U.S. announced the course. “We have some exciting news! As part of the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group U.S. Project (CEVG@U.S. Project), we are launching a free-of-charge on-line course (combined slides and audio) on journal peer review, Translating Critical Appraisal of a Manuscript into Meaningful Peer Review. The objective of the course is to serve as a resource for health professionals who are serving or wish to serve as peer reviewers of the biomedical literature. The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health has funded this project.

Target Audience

The target audience for the Workshop includes ophthalmologists, optometrists, and other vision practitioners, who wish to learn more about serving as a peer reviewer for biomedical journals. Although the examples are mainly related to eyes and vision, and the speakers are mainly connected to eyes and vision research, the course would be transferable to the peer review of the biomedical literature generally. There are no prerequisites for this workshop, but participants should have a basic knowledge of the approaches and language related to epidemiology, study design, biostatistics, and critical appraisal methods.

Description of the Course

We have assembled a truly exciting set of lectures and speakers for the course and are grateful for the excellent contributions they have individually and collectively made to this offering. Their names are listed below, and they are introduced formally before their lectures.

Each lecture is about 1 hour in length (total of about 12 hours) and may be viewed as many times as you wish. Handouts of the slides accompany each lecture, and you may wish to print these out before you listen. Each module, including all lectures, will include a detailed anonymous evaluation to allow continual improvement of the Workshop. We also ask you to complete before and after surveys, where you can let us know more about yourself and what you felt you gained from the course. We pay close attention to your feedback, so please complete these surveys!

A summary of the lectures:

Module 1. Introduction to editorial peer review.

  • Lecture 1. Peer review: What, why, who, and how—Fiona Godlee.
  • Lecture 2. Expectations of a journal editor: a guide for peer reviewers—Tom Liesegang.

Module 2. How to critically appraise the literature.

  • Lecture 1. What is the study question?—Anne Coleman.
  • Lecture 2. What is the study design and is it appropriate for the study question?—David Friedman.
  • Lecture 3. Measures of disease frequency, measures of association, and hypothesis testing—Marie Diener-West.
  • Lecture 4. Appraising validity in studies of intervention effectiveness—Karla Zadnik.
  • Lecture 5. Appraising validity in systematic reviews—Donald Minckler.
  • Lecture 6. Appraising validity in studies of harm—Ann-Margret Ervin.
  • Lecture 7. Appraising validity in studies of prognosis—Richard Wormald.
  • Lecture 8. Appraising validity in studies of diagnostic test accuracy—Milo Puhan.
  • Lecture 9. Critical appraisal of diagnostic test accuracy studies—Milo Puhan.
  • Lecture 10. How should we assess claims about causality?—Joanne Katz.

Here is the link to the course:

You may want to set aside some time for each lecture and not try to compress your learning into a short-time period. There is a lot of material here!”

Nearly 50 Students Receive Travel Awards to Boston Academy Meeting

In an effort to promote its research aims and to infuse an appropriate mix of young members into the Academy, the Academy provides student travel fellowships. Each year the Academy offers travel fellowships of $750 each for students to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry. This year 49 students received awards, including 10 overseas students. The fellowships are designed to encourage optometry students, optometric residents, and students in eye- and vision-related graduate programs to attend key national meetings and exchange scientific ideas on research. Eligible students are those who are currently enrolled full time or have graduated/completed residency within a year of the meeting they wish to attend.

Fellowships are awarded primarily for accomplishment and potential in optometric research and education. Academic abilities, including clinical abilities if relevant, are considered. Being the presenter of a paper or poster is required. For the Academy meeting, award winners were given one of the following awards.

  • Frank W. Weymouth Student Travel Fellowship.
  • Academy Student Travel Fellowship.
  • Irvin M. and Beatrice Borish Student Travel Fellowship.
  • New Jersey Chapter Student Travel Fellowship (must provide proof of residency).
  • Florida Chapter Student Travel Fellowship.


A Synthetic Bacterium that Kills Pseudomonas aeruginosa?

In mid-August, an article in Molecular Systems Biology reported the construction of a synthetic bacterium that detects Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a common microbe, including on the surface of the eye, and a leading cause of hospital-acquired infections. The synthetic bacterium releases antimicrobials that kill Pseudomonas aeruginosa invaders. The authors team, including Poh and Chang, at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, tested the effectiveness of the engineered bacteria against P. aeruginosa cultured either free floating in media or in a biofilm assay and found that the engineered bacteria inhibited growth of P. aeruginosa and prevented biofilm formation. However, it is conceded that some questions remain as the group moves into in vivo experiments. The article is “Engineering microbes to sense and eradicate Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a human pathogen,” Mol Syst Biol 2011;7:521, by Saeidi et al.

Stronger Warning Labels On Glucocorticosteroids?

Late in July, a consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen filed a petition with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “for stronger warning labels” on glucocorticosteroids. It was noted by ophthalmologist Jonathan Trobe at the University of Michigan that steroid drugs, such as prednisone, taken by 25.5 million Americans for arthritis, cancer, transplants, and other conditions need stronger consumer warnings about a rare but possibly irreversible vision impairment, chorioretinopathy. According to the deputy director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, only two manufacturers of more than a dozen listed list the complication on drug labels as a potential side effect. The petition can be found at:

Gender-Based Diabetes Treatment?

According to an article published in PLoS (PLoS Genetics, August 11, 2011), there is a case to be made for diabetes treatment to be gender based. The researchers analyzed the metabolic profile of blood serum from more than 3,000 people and found major gender differences for 101 of 131 metabolites, especially in lipids and amino acids. Apparently, in terms of molecular profiles, men and women have to be assigned to two completely different categories, suggesting the need for gender-specific approaches to the treatment of diseases. According to the authors, reported in the journals news release, “Through the combination of gender- specific evaluation, genetic association studies and metabolomics [the study of the chemical processes involving the products of metabolism], we will gain a detailed understanding of how major widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus develop.” Their findings underscore the need for gender-specific treatments for diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

FDA Recommends Sunglasses with 100% UVA/UVB Rating

The Food and Drug Administration now recommends that, to get the most protection, sunglasses should be labeled with a UVA/UVB rating of 100%. It also suggests that consumers “try to find a wraparound style” and reminds us that children also need sunglasses.

UV Light Now Used to Disinfect Swimming Pools

The Wall Street Journal (Ramachandran, August 2) reported that some swimming pool water is now being disinfected with salt, ozone, charged metal atoms, or ultraviolet light instead of or in addition to chlorine. Although costing more, they are said to be able to reduce redness and itching of the eyes and skin that can result from traditional chlorination. The CDC is working on new standards for treating swimming pool water to allow use of UV light and ozone as disinfectants in addition to the use of chlorine.

Concerns about Overuse of OTC Medicines

U.S. Today (Marcus, August 4) reported that in view of Johnson & Johnson's plans to reduce the maximum dose for Extra Strength Tylenol [acetaminophen], “now some health experts are voicing concern about overuse of other medications that consumers can purchase off pharmacy shelves without a prescription, such as...Theraflu for colds, and the antihistamine Benadryl [diphenhydramine].” Other OTC medicines raising concern included non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS), such as naproxen (Aleve) and ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin). Brian Storm, director of the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, pointed out their overuse could lead to gastrointestinal problems or kidney damage.

Importance of Primate Research Highlighted in UK Report

It was reported in Nature (July 27) that a new commissioned report notes that primate research ought to continue in the UK because of its importance to human health and basic science. The report also calls for “rigorous” experimental and ethical oversight of the work.

Recommendations for Eye Hazard Classification Criteria Reduce Animal Use

Recently, the Interagency Coordinating Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICCVAM) proposed eye hazard classification criteria that will provide the same or greater level of eye hazard classification as current US Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) regulation. It results in use of 50 to 83% fewer animals using a classification criterion at least one positive animal in a three-animal test to identify eye hazards. The draft recommendations and opportunity for public comments were announced in the Federal Register. The research leading to these ICCVAM recommendations can be found in Haseman JK, Allen DG, Lipscomb EA, Truax JF, Stokes WS. Using fewer animals to identify chemical eye hazards: revised criteria necessary to maintain equivalent hazard classification. Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. [published on-line ahead of print].

Internet Databases Reveal New Uses for Old Drugs

The journal New Scientist (Aldhous, August 18) has reported that internet databases can reveal new uses for established drugs. Aldhous writes “It is a disarmingly simple idea: to find out if a drug might treat a disease it wasn't intended for, check out whether it has an opposite effect on gene activity to the illness itself. How do you find such drugs? By mining large public biological datasets. For more than a decade, so-called DNA chips have routinely measured the activity of thousands of genes at a time, and researchers have deposited the results on-line into the Gene Expression Omnibus (GEO), after their papers were published.

Atul Butte, a bioinformatician at Stanford University in California and colleagues reasoned that it should be possible to find new drug uses by combining data from GEO with information gleaned from another database—the Connectivity Map. In this database, biologists at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have documented how patterns of gene activity in human cells change when they are exposed to a range of drugs.

Butte's team mashed up the two datasets according to a simple hypothesis: drugs that have an opposite effect on gene activity to a particular disease could be good candidates for treating the condition. So the researchers devised algorithms to look for drugs that ramp up the activity of genes that are unusually quiet in tissues affected by a particular disease, and suppress those that are hyperactive in that disease. Butte's team proved skeptics wrong by taking two of the strongest leads and showing in animal experiments that the drugs could treat the conditions with which they were paired. In one case, the epilepsy drug topiramate helped rats with inflammatory bowel disease (Science Translational Medicine, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3002648); in the second, cimetidine, used to treat stomach ulcers and acid reflux, reduced tumor growth in mice implanted with human lung cancer cells (Science Translational Medicine, DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001318).”

Software Helps Diabetes Patients Reduce A1C Levels

The American Medical News journal (Dolan, August 18) reports that patients who used a mobile health application to help manage their diabetes had better outcomes than those using traditional means. This is based on a study published on-line in Diabetes Care. The mobile application studied in the trial was WellDoc's DiabetesManager, an FDA-cleared application that collects data, analyzes it, and provides real-time patient coaching. Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine found a mean decline in A1C levels of 1.9% among those who used the mobile tool over a year compared with 0.7% among those receiving traditional care.

Another Strange Aussie Story

On August 19, 2011 Health Canal released a story “Wallaby genome sequence reveals new human gene” noting “Australian scientists have unraveled the first kangaroo genome sequence—that of a Tammar wallaby—and, in the process, discovered a new gene that might be involved in early human development.”

Tammar wallabies are today extinct from the mainland in South-eastern Australia but exist in large numbers on Kangaroo Island.

The KanGO project is using the DNA of the Tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) as its chosen representative of the kangaroo family. Credit: ANU.

Their report refers to a study published in Genome Biology in August where they note that the sequence of the first kangaroo genome is significant to the study of mammalian evolution. Because kangaroos are separated from humans by a large evolutionary time span, it is hoped that this DNA sequence may reveal crucial information about the early mammalian species from which humans evolved, particularly with respect to immunity, development, lactation, and reproduction. Frank Grützner, a University of Adelaide geneticist said that the completion of the first phase of the kangaroo genome “highlights what a treasure trove Australia is for studying isolated genetic material.” The study was supported, in part, by the US National Institutes of Health and NSF.


Eye Implant Wins Backing

Bloomberg's Charles Mead (July 26) reports, “Allergan Inc.'s dexamethasone implant won the backing of” the UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) “as a treatment for the eye disorder (diabetic) macular edema (DME).” The implant, “marketed as Ozurdex, is recommended as an initial therapy for the ailment following central retinal vein occlusion, which can impair vision by keeping blood from leaving the retina. It may also be used for branch retinal vein occlusion if laser treatment doesn't work,” NICE announced. The London-based agency advises the state-run National Health Service on which treatments represent the best value for money.

VSP Eye on Diabetes Campaign

More than 500 low-income, uninsured, and underinsured seniors in Atlanta received free medical care on August 5 to 6 during the VSP Eye on Diabetes Campaign. VSP Vision Care partnered with the Georgia Optometric Association, Medicare Diabetes Screening Project (MDSP), and Atlanta Regional Commission's Area Agency on Aging to host the events. The campaign focus is to increase awareness and understanding of the connection between eye care and a person's general health. In recognition of the VSP Eye on Diabetes campaign, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal proclaimed August 5 to 6 “Eye on Diabetes Days in Georgia.”

© 2011 American Academy of Optometry