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In the News/New Products

doi: 10.1097/OPX.0000000000000735
IN THE NEWS/NEW PRODUCTS
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ACADEMY NEWS

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The Academy and OVS would like to acknowledge the Academy Fellows who are serving as committee experts for the TFOS DEWS II global initiative: Drs. Lyndon Jones, Jason Nichols, Kelly Nichols, Fiona Stapleton, Mark Willcox, James Wolffsohn, Barbara Caffery, Isabelle Jalbert, Debra Schaumberg, Maria Markoulli, Sruthi Srinivasan, Laura Downie, Donald Korb, Michael Bergamini, Craig Woods, Eric Papas, Lakshman Subbaraman, Robin Chalmers, Kathryn Dumbleton, Paul Karpecki, Heiko Pult, Carolyn Begley, Stephanie Cox, and Fiona Stapleton. A number of them were either authors or Guest Editors on last month’s (September 2015) feature issue on Dry Eye Disease.

Congratulations also to Academy Fellow John Flanagan for being awarded Life Fellowship from the College of Optometrists in the UK.

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Academy New Orleans October 7–10, 2015

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There will be so much to take in.

  • Over 250 hours of lectures and workshops have been selected, offering attendees up to 35 hours of CE, including the annual “OVS Presents: Dry Eye Disease” which present clinical practice highlights from the 27-article OVS feature issue dedicated to the latest in dry eye advances in September 2015.

Other highlights include:

  • This year’s Plenary Session, “Today’s Research, Tomorrow’s Practice®: Recognizing and Treating Ocular Melanomas.” It will feature Drs. Carol and Jerry Shields from the Ocular Oncology Service at the Wills Eye Hospital. The session will highlight how to differentiate between suspicious and non-suspicious pigmented and amelanotic lesions and new treatment and management options including clinical trials using chemotherapeutic agents.
  • The American Academy of Optometry and American Academy of Ophthalmology Joint Symposium, “Amblyopia and Beyond: Evidence-Based Pediatric Eye Care,” will focus on evidence-based pediatric eye care. This first-ever joint educational will be repeated at the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting in Las Vegas in November.
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ORGANIZATION AND INSTITUTION NEWS

Naidoo Named Interim CEO of Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI)

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On August 5, 2015, the board of the BHVI named Kovin Naidoo, OD, PhD, MPH, FAAO, as the interim CEO. The Institute is founded on 40 years of extraordinary history; leadership in the industry and in the public health arena worldwide. “It is built on the vision, expertise and entrepreneurship of Brien Holden and decades of the talent and foresight of our impressive teams around the world,” said Professor Naidoo.

Professor Kovin Naidoo was the former Deputy CEO, to the position of Interim CEO, before the passing of Professor Brien Holden in Sydney on July 27, 2015. He notes, “We have excelled in all areas in recent years, forging new pathways where previously they did not exist; invention, creativity and excellence are at the core of all we do. Our future, thanks to those teams and the leadership of the Institute, is in good hands, as it always has been. The Institute is founded on 40 years of extraordinary history; leadership in the industry and in the public health arena worldwide. While we mourn the loss of our beloved leader and friend, we are reminded that the goals we collectively set and share, the movement that we began together, that changed the course of our industry’s history and millions of lives, will live on with passion, conviction, and commitment to Brien’s legacy and our purpose to see vision for everyone…everywhere. We are proudly a collective of outstanding governance, astute business people, researchers, public health professionals, and education and technology specialists. We have excelled in all areas in recent years, forging new pathways where previously they did not exist; invention, creativity, and excellence are at the core of all we do. Our future, thanks to those teams and the leadership of the Institute, is in good hands, as it always has been,” he added.

Kovin Naidoo, is an academic, former anti-apartheid activist and political prisoner, optometrist, and an internationally celebrated public health leader. His professional life has been dedicated to delivering eye care to people in need. In 2010, he received the Academy’s International Award, recognizing his impressive international contributions to optometry.

He has served as the Head of Optometry at University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), South Africa. He is currently CEO of the African Vision Research Institute and an Associate Professor of Optometry at UKZN. Naidoo is a Fulbright Scholar. He received a PhD from the University of New South Wales, a Doctorate of Optometry from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, a Masters in Public Health from Temple University, and a BSc and BOptom degree from the University of Durban-Westville.

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Back-to-School Checklist for Kids

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Prevent Blindness is urging parents to appreciate the need for eye examinations for their children as they prepare to return to school in the northern hemisphere. Prevent Blindness is asking parents to have their child’s eye checked before the school year begins and declared August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month. The non-profit offers a variety of eye health information and programs, the Affordable Care Act, and more, to get children on the path to a lifetime of healthy vision.

Through their program, teachers can download no-cost curriculum and materials to help students learn about their eyes and how to take care of them.

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Most Earthlike Planet

With all the excitement about Pluto and the discovery of its features as the most distant “dwarf planet” in our solar system, we are now also getting further expansion of our knowledge of planets with the news items on Kepler-452b. This planet, 1400 light years away, more than 60% larger and with 2× to 3× the gravity and a 385-day year, appears to be of interest because it shares some features of earth and its relationship to its star (the sun for us and Kepler-452 for the Kepler planet). Kepler-452b was highlighted on July 23 by a news conference and a release from the Kepler data release project manager. There is a good probability that we will find out very little more about it. It occurs to your OVS Editor that what we see when looking at this new planet is already 1400 years outdated.

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A Zebrafish’s Eye: Clues to Cataract?

In an article in Experimental Eye Research in July 2015, the authors show that the alpha-A crystallin has an evolutionary role. They assert it plays an evolutionarily conserved role between the zebrafish and the rat. As a Vanderbilt University news release states it, “When the researchers disrupted the expression of the alpha crystallin genes, the fish developed cataracts. They could reverse this by putting the rat gene in the zebrafish. Their work adds to the consensus that the zebrafish, once a favorite of fish hobbyists, is a powerful tool to understand human diseases, such as cataracts. When the researchers disrupted the expression of the alpha crystallin genes, the fish developed cataracts. They could reverse this by putting the rat gene in the zebrafish. Their work adds to the consensus that the zebrafish, once a favorite of fish hobbyists, is a powerful tool to understand human diseases, such as cataracts.”

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Reversing Cataract Formation?

A related recent Research Letter (July 22, 2015) in Nature reports the potential to reverse the aggregation of “cataractous” proteins in the crystalline lens. As the authors note in their summary, “The precise mechanisms by which lens proteins both prevent aggregation and maintain lens transparency are largely unknown. Lanosterol is an amphipathic molecule enriched in the lens. It is synthesized by lanosterol synthase (LSS) in a key cyclization reaction of a cholesterol synthesis pathway. Here we identify two distinct homozygous /LSS/ missense mutations (W581R and G588S) in two families with extensive congenital cataracts. Both of these mutations affect highly conserved amino acid residues and impair key catalytic functions of LSS. Engineered expression of wild-type, but not mutant, /LSS/ prevents intracellular protein aggregation of various cataract-causing mutant crystallins. Treatment by lanosterol, but not cholesterol, significantly decreased preformed protein aggregates both ‘in vitro’ and in cell-transfection experiments. We further show that lanosterol treatment could reduce cataract severity and increase transparency in dissected rabbit cataractous lenses ‘in vitro’ and cataract severity ‘in vivo’ in dogs. Our study identifies lanosterol as a key molecule in the prevention of lens protein aggregation and points to a novel strategy for cataract prevention and treatment.” [Nature (2015) doi:10.1038/nature14650]

Apparently, the improvement was dramatic, researchers noted. It was obvious, just by looking at the dogs’ eyes, that the cataracts had decreased. The mechanism of how lanosterol manages to eliminate the protein mass is unknown.

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Beginnings of Mapping the Oceans is Celebrated

Nowadays, we simply marvel at the way the ocean floor, long ignored by “map makers,” is being detailed. Entire valleys and mountain ranges are now well mapped. It seems not more than a few years ago that I purchased a map of the world’s oceans, not its land masses, and I was intrigued by the deep ravines and high ocean mountains. To say nothing of the amazing creatures being discovered daily in our oceans.

So when I came across a reminder that it is only 80 years ago that two men boldly ventured deep into the ocean, I was interested and was reminded that this really was a 20th-century adventure. The article was in The Scientist (Jenny Rood, 1 July 2015) and I draw your attention to it (http://www.the-scientist.com//?articles.view/articleNo/43377/title/Half-Mile-Down–1934/). As Rood notes, “On that summer day, however, the two would descend 3,028 feet, deeper than any human had been before or would be again for nearly 30 years.” Rood describes the event and its significance at the time, “On August 15, 1934, two tall, lanky men squeezed through the tiny hatch of a 57-inch-wide steel ball that was then dropped into the deep sea off the coast of Bermuda. Naturalist William Beebe and the orb’s inventor, Otis Barton, were already familiar with the damp, uncomfortable quarters inside the sphere. Despite the danger of being suspended by a single cable, Beebe and Barton had made numerous dives during the previous four years observing marine life and mapping the contours of the underwater volcano beneath the islands from inside the capsule. On that summer day, however, the two would descend 3,028 feet, deeper than any human had been before or would be again for nearly 30 years.

In a 1926 article in The New York Times, Beebe, a noted American ornithologist-turned-marine biologist, had outlined his wish to go deeper than the 60 feet his diving suit would allow. In response, Barton, an engineer studying natural history in graduate school at Columbia University, designed the bathysphere to protect against the high pressure of the ocean depths. By the 1930 summer research season, the 5,400-pound sphere made of inch-and-a-half-thick steel was ready for its inaugural dive. The first manned descent lasted 15 minutes and only reached 45 feet below the surface, but after testing unmanned descents to greater depths and working out some kinks, Beebe and Barton progressed to depths of a quarter of a mile.” Rood continues, “These days, visitors can see the brilliant blue bathysphere, which belongs to the Wildlife Conservation Society, the successor of the New York Zoological Society that funded Beebe’s first expeditions, at the entrance to the New York Aquarium, where it was placed last year in honor of the 80th anniversary of Beebe and Barton’s record-setting dive.”

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AOA Challenges On-line “Eye Exams”

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In a news item in AOA First Look, the AOA challenges and warns against online claims for eye exams. They note, “Concerned for patients’ health and safety, the AOA and state associations are actively combating misleading claims made by so-called ‘online eye exams’ on multiple fronts.” Although online programs tout consumer convenience, albeit, with ambiguous and sometimes inaccurate claims, the AOA contends there are severe pitfalls in separating refractive tests from annual comprehensive eye exams performed in-person by an eye care professional. The AOA and state associations are committed to full enforcement of Federal and state law, and are determined to be an advocacy force to protect the public—a mission that has AOA President Steven A. Loomis, O.D., calling for action.

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CDC Wants Coordinated Approach to Superbug Prevention

On August 4, 2015, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) pushed for “a coordinated approach, in which health facilities in a region share data with a central public health authority—which in turn distributes the information.” CDC investigators “focused on infections caused by four of the most aggressive pathogens: Clostridium difficile…which attacks the gut when antibiotics kill off weaker germs; carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, which the CDC has labeled a ‘nightmare’ germ because it is resistant to nearly all antibiotics and kills up to half of patients who get bloodstream infections; a multi-drug-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause serious infections for hospitalized patients or those with weakened immune systems; and invasive methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.”

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The Trick to Magnetic Sensing for Navigation?

Birds and bees do it. So do sea turtles and salmon. Even some bacteria do it. They all can use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate. Although scientists have known for years that many organisms sense magnetic fields (magnetosensation), exactly how has remained a mystery. Now a research report out of the University Texas provides clues. The group designed a system to produce magnetic fields similar in strength to the Earth’s fields while eliminating gravitational, electrical, and other factors. They found that starved worms exposed to a magnetic field that was oriented opposite to the local Earth’s magnetic field reversed their burrowing behavior; they migrated up, suggesting they sensed magnetic fields. The researchers examined worms obtained from 10 locations across the planet. They found that worms migrated at angles consistent with vertical movement in their native soil. This directional migration may help guide the worms to food sources. The researchers believe that the ability of animals to sense Earth’s magnetic fields may be widespread. To determine how worms sense magnetic fields, the scientists tested genetically altered worms. They found that those with deficiencies in pathways that sense touch, light, taste, and oxygen could still detect magnetic fields. However, worms with a defect in a neuron pair called AFD could not orient to magnetic fields. A specific type of protein in the AFD neurons, known as a TAX-4 cyclic nucleotide-gated ion channel, was required for magnetic orientation and vertical migration. AFD neurons also sense temperature, carbon dioxide, and moisture gradients.

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Major European Consortium Gene Study Related to Disease

On July 27, the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) reported on the results of a major consortium effort to identify the major genes related to disease. The news noted, “Since mice share 90 per cent of their genes with humans they are one of the best organisms to help us understand human genetics. The European Mouse Disease Clinic (EUMODIC) brought together scientists from across Europe to investigate the functions of 320 genes in mice. Over half of these genes had no previously known function, and the remaining genes were poorly understood. The functions of around 150 genes have been discovered by scientists across Europe in a major initiative to try to understand the part they play in disease and biology.” The report continues, “In order to study gene function, the EUMODIC consortium produced mouse lines which each had a single gene removed. These mouse lines were then analysed in mouse clinics, where each mouse was assessed by a series of tests and investigations, allowing the researchers to establish the functions of the missing genes. EUMODIC was the first step towards the creation of a database of mouse gene functions, a vision now being realized by the International Mouse Phenotyping Consortium (IMPC). The IMPC incorporates 18 centers from across the globe with the aim over the next ten years of uncovering the functions of all 20,000 genes in the mouse genome.” Reference: de Angelis, M. H. et al ‘Analysis of mammalian gene function through broad based phenotypic screens across a consortium of mouse clinics’ Nature Genetics (2015) DOI: 10.1038/ng.3360

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Effective Ebola Immunization?

Early in August 2015, we learned from a number of media sources that an effective Ebola immunization might have been developed. A single dose appears to have provided very effective protection in macaque monkeys in just 7 days. This followed a report in Science. The vaccine, known as VSV-EBOV or rVSV-ZEBOV, is the same that was reported in the previous week in the journal Lancet to have been highly effective in a separate trial in human subjects in Guinea. The early results, reported online in The Lancet, showed that none of the more than 2,000 people vaccinated in Guinea got the disease. On the other hand, there were 16 cases among the nearly 2,400 in the control group. According to Michael Smith, the North American Correspondent for MedPage Today, “the trial, being conducted in Guinea and using an unusual cluster-randomized strategy, is still under way (although no longer randomized) and the vaccine itself is not yet licensed for use.”

In other news related to Ebola, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized emergency use of a rapid blood test for the virus. OraSure Technologies of Bethlehem, Pa., said its Ebola Rapid Antigen Test can detect viral antigens either in venous whole blood or in fingerstick samples, with results available within 30 minutes, and that the test uses technology similar to the company’s HIV and hepatitis C tests.

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Russian Gives Huge Boost for Search for Extraterrestrial Life

According to a press release from UC Berkeley (Robert Sanders, July 20, 2015), “The Breakthrough Prize Foundation and its founder, internet investor Yuri Milner, have signed a contract with UC Berkeley to lead a major escalation in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI. The Breakthrough Prize Foundation has already contracted with two of the world’s largest radio telescopes—the 100-meter Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the 64-meter Parkes Telescope in New South Wales, Australia—to devote between 20 and 25% of their telescope time to searching for signals from other civilizations. The funding will also allow the Automated Planet Finder at the Lick Observatory near San Jose to search for optical laser signals from other planets.

According to Worden, chairman of the Breakthrough Prize Foundation, UC Berkeley is renowned for its frontier digital signal processing technology, able to analyze billions of voltages per second coming from the backend of the radio telescopes. The program will generate vast amounts of data, all of which will be open to the public. Over time, this could constitute the largest amount of scientific data ever made available to the public, according to the foundation.

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Challenge to Eradicate Infectious Disease Globally

Quite a challenge! As Jef Akst (The Scientist, July 1, 2015) notes, “The eradication of smallpox set the standard for the global elimination of a devastating infectious disease. Will the ongoing polio and guinea worm campaigns be as successful? Epidemiologists, public-health workers, and researchers involved in eradication campaigns are confident that polio and guinea worm can meet the same fate as smallpox. The number of guinea worm disease cases has dropped from more than 3.5 million in 1986 to just 126 infections last year.

Not every infectious disease is eradicable. When you look at the huge array of microorganisms out there, there really are a relatively small number of microbiological agents that would be considered to be good candidates for disease. One criterion that makes a pathogen a good target for eradication is the lack of an animal reservoir.”

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INDUSTRY NEWS

3D Printed Drug FDA Approved

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OVS News has carried numerous stories over the past few years about the ever-increasing possibilities with 3D printers from ornaments to human parts. Now we learn from an article in The Scientist (Jeff Akst, 4 August 2015) that the FDA has now approved the first drug made by a 3D printer. Akst notes, “The US Food and Drug Administration green lights the first medicine produced by a 3-D printer for use in the human body. At first glance, SPRITAM looks like any other pill. But the drug, developed by pharmaceutical company Aprecia, is actually layers of powder laid down by a 3-D printer. Its approval this week (August 3) by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of epilepsy marks the first 3-D–printed drug to reach the US market, according to a company press release at https://aprecia.com/pdf/2015_08_03_Spritam:FDA_Approval_Press_Release.pdf.” SPRITAM could become available in the first quarter of 2016.

© 2015 American Academy of Optometry