Colour Changing Contact Lenses In Development For Diabetics To Replace The Need To Routinely Draw Blood Throughout The Day

Diabetics may soon be able to wear contact lenses that continuously alert them to variations in their glucose levels by changing colours – replacing the need to routinely draw blood throughout the day.

The non-invasive technology, developed by Chemical and Biochemical Engineering professor Jin Zhang at The University of Western Ontario, uses extremely small nanoparticles embedded into the hydrogel lenses. These engineered nanoparticles react with glucose molecules found in tears, causing a chemical reaction that changes their colour.

Zhang received $216,342 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) this morning to further develop technologies using multifunctional nanocomposites.

These technologies have vast potential applications beyond biomedical devices, including for food packaging. For example, nanocomposite films can prevent food spoilage by preventing oxygen, carbon dioxide and moisture from reaching fresh meats and other foods, or by measuring pathogenic contamination; others can make packaging increasingly biodegradable.

Overall, Western was awarded $2,659,595 for 12 projects from the CFI’s Leaders Opportunity Fund today.

For more information, please visit: innovation/en/news?news_id=214

Douglas Keddy
University of Western Ontario

River Blindness – It May Be Possible To Vaccinate People

Veterinary scientists in Liverpool have found that some African cattle have natural immunity to a parasite, similar to that which causes river blindness in humans.

These new findings, by scientists at the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, indicate that it may be possible to vaccinate humans against River Blindness. The disease causes blindness in thousands of people in some of the poorest countries in the world, particularly in West and Central Africa.

River blindness, or onchocerciasis, is caused by a parasitic worm and leads to severe itching of the skin and lesions of the eye which can result in blindness. The parasite is spread by black flies which breed in rivers and deposit the larvae of the worm into the person they bite. The disease develops over a long period of time, particularly in young adults, eventually preventing them from working and farming and hence feeding themselves and rearing their families.

Professor Sandy Trees, at the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science, said: “Onchocerciasis has been the target of major international efforts to control and ultimately eradicate it, but it still presents a huge burden to health in many impoverished countries. To see if a vaccine is feasible for the disease we looked at whether immunity exists naturally and whether it can be induced.”

The team investigated immunity in cattle infected with a very closely related worm – Onchocerca ochengi – that causes lumps to appear on the animal’s skin but does not cause blindness or illness. Examining infected cattle in Cameroon, the team found that some cows naturally develop resistance to Onchocerca ochengi.

They also showed that cattle which were normally susceptible to infection could be successfully immunised using a vaccine composed of minute parasite larvae, weakened by a controlled dose of radiation in the laboratory. After two years of natural exposure to infected black flies, the number of worms in vaccinated cattle was far lower than in unvaccinated animals.

Professor Trees added: “Although the immunisation method that we tested in cattle would not be suitable for human use, this research provides the first proof that immunisation against onchocerciasis is possible and hence it may be feasible to protect humans from the parasite using some form of vaccination.”

There is currently no safe drug available to cure the disease fully as treatments only kill the young Onchocerca volvulus worms and not the adults. Researchers are now looking to further understanding of how some cattle develop natural immunity when some do not, which will assist in targeting potential treatments for River Blindness.

The University of Liverpool is one of the UK’s leading research institutions. It attracts collaborative and contract research commissions from a wide range of national and international organisations valued at more than ?90 million annually.

The research, funded by the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA and can be viewed at pnas/current.shtml

L69 3BX

BlindAid: Virtual Maps For The Blind

The blind and visually impaired often rely on others to provide cues and information on navigating through their environments. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t give them the tools to venture out on their own, says Dr. Orly Lahav of Tel Aviv University’s School of Education and Porter School for Environmental Studies.

To give navigational “sight” to the blind, Dr. Lahav has invented a new software tool to help the blind navigate through unfamiliar places. It is connected to an existing joystick, a 3-D haptic device, that interfaces with the user through the sense of touch. People can feel tension beneath their fingertips as a physical sensation through the joystick as they navigate around a virtual environment which they cannot see, only feel: the joystick stiffens when the user meets a virtual wall or barrier. The software can also be programmed to emit sounds – a cappuccino machine firing up in a virtual caf?�, or phones ringing when the explorer walks by a reception desk.

Exploring 3D virtual worlds based on maps of real-world environments, the blind are able to “feel out” streets, sidewalks and hallways with the joystick as they move the cursor like a white cane on the computer screen that they will never see. Before going out alone, the new solution gives them the control, confidence and ability to explore new streets making unknown spaces familiar. It allows people who can’t see to make mental maps in their mind.

Dr. Lahav’s software takes physical information from our world and digitizes it for transfer to a computer, with which the user interacts using a mechanical device. Her hope is that the blind will be able to explore the virtual environment of a new neighborhood in the comfort of their homes before venturing out into the real world.

A touchy-feely virtual white stick

“This tool lets the blind ‘touch’ and ‘hear’ virtual objects and deepens their sense of space, distance and perspective,” says Dr. Lahav. “They can ‘feel’ intersections, buildings, paths, and obstacles with the joystick, and even navigate inside a shopping mall or a museum like the Louvre in a virtual environment before they go out to explore on their own.”

The tool transmits textures to the fingers and can distinguish among surfaces like tiled floors, asphalt, sidewalks and grass. In theory, any unknown space, indoors or out, can be virtually pre-explored, says Dr. Lahav. The territory just needs to be mapped first – and with existing applications like GIS (geography information system), the information is already there.

A new road to independence

The tool, called the BlindAid, was recently unveiled at the “Virtual Rehabilitation 2009 International Conference,” where Dr. Lahav demonstrated case studies of people using the tool at the Carroll Center for the Blind, a rehabilitation center in Newton, Massachusetts. There, a partially blind woman first explored the virtual environment of the center – as well as the campus and 10 other sites, including a four-story building. After just three or four sessions, the woman was able to effectively navigate and explore real-world target sites wearing a blindfold.

The virtual system becomes a computerized “white cane” for the blind, says Dr. Lahav. “They get feedback from the device that lets them build a cognitive map, which they later apply in the real world. It’s like a high-tech walking cane,” she says. “Our tool lets people ‘see’ their environment in advance so they can walk in it for real at a later time.”

Today the blind and visually impaired are very limited in their movements, which necessarily influences their quality of life. This solution could help them find new options, like closer routes from train or bus stations to the safety of home. “Ultimately, it helps the blind determine their own paths and gives them the ability to take control of their lives,” says Dr. Lahav, who first began this research at Tel Aviv University, under Prof. David Mioduser, where she now works. She then further developed it with her MIT colleagues Dr. Mandayam Srinivasan and Dr. David W. Schloerb.

American Friends of Tel Aviv University supports Israel’s leading and most comprehensive center of higher learning. In independent rankings, TAU’s innovations and discoveries are cited more often by the global scientific community than all but 20 other universities worldwide.

Internationally recognized for the scope and groundbreaking nature of its research programs, Tel Aviv University consistently produces work with profound implications for the future.

George Hunka

American Friends of Tel Aviv University

In Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, Mysterious Cilium Functions As Cellular Communication Hub

Nearly all mammalian cells have what’s called a primary cilium – a single, stump-like rod projecting from the smooth contours of the cell’s outer membrane. Unlike its more flamboyant cousins, the motile cilia, which beat industriously in packs to clear our airways of mucous or to shuttle a fertilized egg to the uterus, the primary cilium just … sits there.

Like a bump on a log.

In fact, it looks so useless that, until recently, many scientists considered it to be just a leftover artifact of eons of evolution.

Recently, however, research has shown that defects in the development or function of primary cilia are associated with many human disorders, including polycystic kidney disease, skeletal malformations, neural tube defects as well as obesity. Clearly there’s more here than meets the eye. Scientists have since decided that the primary cilium works as a kind of antenna to help the cell respond to outside chemical signals and mechanical forces.

Now researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have pinpointed the molecular cause of a rare genetic disease in humans called Bardet-Biedl syndrome, or BBS. People with the disorder suffer from obesity, retinal degeneration, kidney cysts and polydactyly (having extra fingers or toes). And, as you might guess, it all hinges on the primary cilium. Specifically, the researchers have discovered that genetic mutations associated with the disease affect a protein complex that ferries receptors and other proteins from the cell’s membrane to the surface of the primary cilium.

“This provides a very logical explanation for the wide variety of symptoms seen in patients with Bardet-Biedl syndrome,” said Maxence Nachury, PhD, assistant professor of molecular and cellular physiology. “The primary cilium used to be thought of as just the appendix of the cell. Now we’re finding that it’s actually the communication hub where many signaling pathways take place.”

The research will be published in the June 25 issue of Cell, and will be featured on the journal’s cover.

The obesity experienced by Bardet-Biedl syndrome patients is pronounced. They gain massive amounts of weight very early in their lives, and by the time they are 6 months old they weigh more than twice that of the heaviest of their peers. And in mouse models of the disease, these animals are 2.5 times the weight of their littermates.

“We’ve been able to go within three years from being completely puzzled about what was causing the clinical presentation of the disease to knowing with a very high degree of confidence what the affected molecules are doing inside the cell,” said Nachury.

Nachury, who was recently named one of 15 Searle Scholars for 2010, launched his lab at Stanford in late 2007 in order to understand the function of the primary cilium. Earlier that year, as a postdoctoral scholar at Genentech and Stanford, he identified a group of proteins involved in BBS that work together in a group called the “BBSome” as important to the function of the primary cilium. He and his colleagues speculated that the BBSome was somehow involved in moving proteins around on the cell’s surface, or membrane.

Cellular membranes are more than just an inanimate skin corralling the contents of the cell and protecting it from outside elements. Instead, they are a dynamic interface with the outside world. Receptor proteins bob and mill about in a sea of membrane molecules called phospholipids, alert for external signals that they then translate to the inner surface of the membrane. Workhorses inside the cell respond to the receptor’s signals by activating other proteins or adjusting the expression of key genes in the nucleus.

The situation is much the same in the portion of the membrane that makes up the primary cilium. However, its structure gives it a unique advantage: Because both its membrane and its interior are cordoned off from the rest of the cell, proteins can accumulate in higher concentrations than elsewhere in the cell. These higher concentrations increase the efficiency of the signaling interactions.

Specifically, the surface area of the primary cilium is about 1,000 times less than that of the plasma membrane; protein concentrations inside the cilium are about 100 times greater that of the cytoplasm.

Hua Jin, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in Nachury’s lab, shows in this latest study that the BBSome works by latching on to proteins bobbing in the main plasma membrane and pulling them through the phospholipids to the surface of the primary cilium. It’s much like how a tugboat escorts ocean liners into a busy harbor.

“Until now, we knew of essentially no molecules that served this purpose,” said Nachury. Once parked on the primary cilium, the proteins can rub shoulders and hobnob with other signaling molecules on the surface and inside the cell. “Now the primary cilium is starting to look less like a mere antenna, and more like the communication hub of the cell.”

Research by a variety of groups has pinpointed the primary cilium as the location for important cellular control pathways, such as the hedgehog and retinal-signaling pathways. Nachury and his colleagues are now interested in investigating its role in human obesity.

“It seems from the work of other investigators that the pathways used by the brain to sense fat stores may require the primary cilia,” said Nachury. “We’re very excited to move into this area and to understand what type of signaling might be regulating body weight.”

Other Stanford researchers involved in the work include postdoctoral scholar Susan White, PhD, and research associate Toshinobu Shida. The work was supported by the American Heart Association, the March of Dimes, a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Klingenstein Research Fellowship and the National Institutes of Health.

Krista Conger
Stanford University Medical Center

MIT Team Takes High-res, 3-D Images Of Eye

In work that could improve diagnoses of many eye
diseases, MIT researchers have developed a new type of laser for
taking high-resolution, 3-D images of the retina, the part of the eye
that converts light to electrical signals that travel to the brain.

The research will be presented at the Conference on Lasers and
Electro-Optics and the Quantum Electronics and Laser Science
Conference in Baltimore on May 10.

The new imaging system is based on Optical Coherence Tomography
(OCT), which uses light to obtain high-resolution, cross-sectional
images of the eye to visualize subtle changes that occur in retinal
disease. OCT was developed in the early 1990s by MIT Professor James
Fujimoto, Eric Swanson at MIT Lincoln Laboratory and collaborators;
Fujimoto is an author of the report to be presented in May.

“Within the last few years optical coherence tomography has become a
standard diagnostic for ophthalmology. New techniques are now
enabling dramatic increases in image acquisition speeds. These
advances promise to enable new and powerful three-dimensional
visualization methods which could improve early diagnosis of disease
and treatment monitoring,” said Fujimoto, who holds appointments in
MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and
the Research Laboratory of Electronics.

Conventional OCT imaging typically yields a series of two-dimensional
cross-sectional images of the retina, which can be combined to form a
3-D image of its volume. The system works by scanning light back and
forth across the eye, measuring the echo time delay of reflected
light along micrometer-scale lines that, row by row, build up
high-resolution images.

Commercial OCT systems scan the eye at rates ranging from several
hundred to several thousand lines per second. But a typical patient
can only keep the eye still for about one second, limiting the amount
of three-dimensional data that can be acquired.

Now, using the new laser, researchers in Fujimoto’s group report
retinal scans at record speeds of up to 236,000 lines per second, a
factor of 10 improvement over current OCT technology.

Future clinical studies, as well as further development, may someday
enable ophthalmologists to routinely obtain three-dimensional “OCT
snapshots” of the eye, containing comprehensive volumetric
information about the microstructure of the retina. Such snapshots
could potentially improve diagnoses of retinal diseases such as
diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Fujimoto’s colleagues on the work are Robert Huber, a visiting
scientist at MIT now at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Germany,
Desmond C. Adler and Vivek Srinivasan. Adler and Srinivasan are both
graduate students in EECS.

The current research was sponsored by the National Science
Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Air Force
Office of Scientific Research.

Refractive Surgical Practices In Persons With Human ImmunodeficiencyVirus (HIV) Positivity

People who are HIV-positive are now living longer, healthier lives, thanks to antiretroviral therapy and other treatment advances, and the number of HIV-positive people seeking LASIK, intraocular lenses following cataract removal, and similar procedures is likely to grow in coming years. Ahmad A. Aref, M.D., Pennsylvania State Hershey Eye Center, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, and colleagues recently investigated current care practices and opinions by sending a confidential online questionnaire to members of the International Society of Refractive Surgery of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Of the 25 percent of surgeons who responded, 51 percent considered persons with HIV to be acceptable candidates for elective refractive surgery, but only 12.5 percent considered people with AIDS to be so. The majority of respondents (72.7 percent) who perform these procedures in persons with HIV or AIDS said they take additional precautions, such as addressing one eye at a time rather than bilaterally, scheduling the patient last in a given day, and increasing attention to equipment and staff hygiene.

“Refractive surgery care practices and outcomes in HIV/ AIDS patients need to be formally studied, with the goal of ensuring optimal vision improvement and overall patient health and safety,” the authors conclude.

About the Academy-SOE Joint Meeting

The 2008 Joint Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and European Society of Ophthalmology is the largest and most comprehensive ophthalmic educational meeting in the world. It is in session November 8 to 11 at the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA. Offerings include 277 continuing medical education courses, 179 “Breakfast with the Experts” roundtables, 95 skills transfer courses, and more than 100 hours of scientific program presentations, at no charge.

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology

AAO is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons-Eye M.D.s-with more than 27,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three “O’s” – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy’s Web site at aao/

Mary Wade
American Academy of Ophthalmology

Glaucoma Research Foundation Announces New Evidence For The Cause Of Vision Loss In Glaucoma

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month and the Glaucoma Research Foundation today announced that novel new findings about the underlying cause of glaucoma have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Early Edition ahead of print). The study was largely funded by the Melza M. and Frank Theodore Barr Foundation through the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF).

“Our mission is to invest in innovative research that can help preserve vision for the more than 60 million people worldwide who suffer from glaucoma,” said Thomas M. Brunner, President and CEO of the Glaucoma Research Foundation. “The GRF is pleased to support this groundbreaking research during National Glaucoma Awareness Month and we believe these findings will shed new light on our understanding, and ultimately the treatment, of glaucoma.”

The study titled, Myelination transition zone astrocytes are constitutively phagocytic and have synuclein dependent reactivity in glaucoma, can be accessed from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences here. Researchers employed a range of techniques including molecular biology, electron microscopy and image analysis to uncover three interconnected new discoveries about glaucoma:

Glaucoma Reveals New Similarities to Parkinson’s Disease: Glaucoma is characterized by formation of protein aggregates called gamma-synuclein. Most other neurodegenerative disorders, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), are characterized by the aggregation of proteins. In Parkinson’s disease, a very similar protein called alpha-synuclein is aggregated. This finding provides evidence that glaucoma acts more like protein aggregation neurodegenerative diseases than like other blinding eye diseases.

New Cellular Mechanism Discovery: A subpopulation of support cells, called astrocytes, have been found to have a highly unexpected role in cleaning up the byproducts or waste of the cells that die in glaucoma, the retinal ganglion cells. This type of “degradative” activity was not previously known to exist, and its existence may help explain perplexing findings in many neurodegenerative disorders besides glaucoma.

Underlying Cause of Vision Loss: Previous work by scientists had pointed to an anatomical location, the optic nerve head, where vision loss most likely occurs in glaucoma. This study is the first to pinpoint where within the optic nerve head the blinding insult is likely to be, which would explain the very characteristic pattern of blindness in glaucoma.

“These compelling results put us on the cusp of discovering a treatment for glaucoma while also being invaluable for others whose research priority is in the area of other neurodegenerative diseases,” said Dr. Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, senior study author and a research scientist at Kennedy Krieger Institute. “Our primary goal is to find interventions that halt or at least slow glaucoma progression. We believe that understanding the underlying mechanism of vision loss in glaucoma brings us much closer to that goal. Indeed, now that we think we understand where and what the key blinding insult is in glaucoma, there are a number of diagnostic and treatment options that become self-evident.”

While this research was principally funded by the Glaucoma Research Foundation, Dr. Marsh-Armstrong and other scientists at Kennedy Krieger Institute collaborated on this study with colleagues at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, and the University of Murcia in Spain. Additional grant funding was provided in part by the International Retinal Research Foundation and the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes blindness by damaging the optic nerve, which sends signals from the eye to the brain. It affects more than 60 million people and is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. While older individuals are at higher risk for the disease, babies and children are also susceptible to glaucoma.


Glaucoma Research Foundation

“Glaucoma Cure Not A National Priority”

With a growing threat of blindness from glaucoma looming, “finding a cure or therapies that can avert this threat is simply not an urgent national imperative,” reports Allen Poirson, PhD, the new Director of Scientific Programs and Licensing for the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF), previewing the results of his “Glaucoma Research and Development Efforts” (GRaDE) as the Daniel Scott Weston Glaucoma Research Lecturer of GRF’s Silicon Valley chapter fall event.

“We looked at several basic indicators,” Poirson reported, “and documented in the government sector the low priority glaucoma research funding has at the National Eye Institute (NEI) and the resulting small amount of new research this low standing affords. In the corporate sector, medications reaching market approval are incremental advances.”

“For some time now,” said Thomas M. Brunner, President and CEO of GRF, “our donors and stakeholders have been asking us: ‘Where is the cure? What is being done nationally to address this pressing challenge?’ Now, with Dr. Poirson’s report, GRaDE, we are able to give a complete answer.” GRaDE, Brunner said, will be released in the next few weeks, and will be available to the community.

Brunner noted that the appointment of Dr. Poirson was the result of an exhaustive and nearly year-long search last year. “Dr. Poirson’s training in visual neuroscience and his impressive experience commercializing scientific and clinical discovery over the past ten years has ideally prepared him for his role here. He is the former Vice President of Medical Systems at Science and Technology International, obtained both his BA and PhD at Stanford University, and has published extensively in the areas of biology and medical imaging.”

Art Takahara, a member of GRF’s Board of Directors and chair of the Silicon Valley chapter, reinforced the urgency of the moment, reporting that “we’re hearing from leading researchers GRF has been able to fund that glaucoma has the potential of being one of the very first neurodegenerative diseases we can actually solve in our lifetime! It’s just a matter of stepping up the amount of research momentum we are able to galvanize behind this globally beneficial goal. And that takes people and money.”

Poirson reported that, at the NEI in 2007, glaucoma research received only 10% of the extramural research budget. “Federal glaucoma research spending ranks fourth at the NEI, behind Retinal Diseases (which received four times the amount glaucoma receives), Sensorimotor Disorders (which received more than twice the amount glaucoma receives), and Corneal Diseases (which received one-third again more than glaucoma).

“Attracting and supporting talented new researchers with fresh ideas to the field of glaucoma is instrumental in finding a cure for the disease,” said Poirson. Citing his examination of the publicly-available database (CRISP) on federally funded medical research he concludes: “That just isn’t happening through the NEI funding mechanism. Over the past two years (FY2008 and FY2007), a total of $4 million distributed among fourteen new research grants (R01, R15, R21) represents the total government commitment to new research programs emphasizing neurodegeneration, neuroprotection, genetic and stem cell approaches to understand and treat the disease.”

For each of those grants awarded, commented Brunner, there are at least five applicants. And even in light of that tough competition – and as a testament to the validity of GRF-funded research – two of these fourteen principal investigators are members of the GRF-funded Catalyst For a Cure research consortium. Philip Horner, PhD (University of Washington) and David Calkins, PhD (Vanderbilt) both were able to use results of research funded by GRF as supporting and preliminary information in their grant submissions to the NEI.

Turning to the non-profit sector, Poirson reported that combined funding in Fiscal 2007 provided through the non-profit sector totaled $2.8 million in grants awarded by the American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF), The Glaucoma Foundation (TGF) based in New York, and the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF) based in San Francisco.

And finally, by way of illustrating current research trends in the corporate sector, Poirson reported that, as of September 26, there were six open phase III clinical trials using medications to treat glaucoma, and which can lead to availability in the marketplace. “None of the drugs in these six studies represent a new ‘mechanism of action’ to reduce pressure, and none of these drugs attempt to preserve the optic nerve,” Poirson said.

“Mind you,” reminded Brunner, “we are fortunate that several forward-thinking pharmaceutical companies have invested so much in developing drugs that have controlled vision loss for so many. We are especially grateful for leadership demonstrated by companies that have made innovative – and expensive – investments in more experimental clinical trials of alternative uses for currently approved medications. Those trials might not have led to a therapy, but they show the kind of aggressive commitment to those at risk we all need to make to solve this problem once and for all.”

Globally, over 60 million people have glaucoma, though with a rapidly aging population, this number will increase exponentially. In the United States, there are about 4 million people of all ages with glaucoma, though only half are likely to be aware of their diagnosis. Scientists estimate the number of those affected could reach 6 million in just the next ten years. And glaucoma left undiagnosed and untreated, without a cure, leads to irreparable damage of the optic nerve, vision loss, and possibly blindness.

Located in San Francisco and now celebrating its 31st Anniversary year, GRF is the nation’s most experienced foundation dedicated solely to glaucoma research and education. In addition to funding innovative research like the Catalyst For a Cure research consortium and its Shaffer Fund for Innovative Glaucoma Research, GRF also is the “go to” agency for education materials. These include the definitive reference for newly diagnosed, Understanding and Living with Glaucoma (available in both English and Spanish editions); brochures serving those at highest risk, including African-Americans and Latinos; a comprehensive booklet for children with glaucoma and their families; and a toll free phone line, 800-826-6693, staffed during office hours with an information specialist to handle a variety of inquiries.

For more information about the Glaucoma Research Foundation, visit their website glaucoma.

Glaucoma Research Foundation

International Survey Shows People Over Forty Ignore Risk Of Blindness

Results of a new international survey reveal that eye exams are being ignored by many aged over 40. Only two fifths of respondents had visited an eye specialist in the last year to have their eyes checked, even though twice as many people feared going blind compared to heart disease or early death. The survey showed that awareness of glaucoma was extremely low. A total of 40 percent of people surveyed were unaware that glaucoma is linked to blindness, even though it is the second leading cause of blindness. World wide, approximately 6.7 million people are blind from glaucoma, with almost 70 million affected by the disease.

The survey was launched today as part of the All Eyes on Glaucoma”! campaign, a global initiative sponsored by Pfizer Ophthalmics and supported by the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA) to educate people over age 40 on how to preserve their vision and recognize their risk of developing glaucoma. There are a number of types of glaucoma, the majority of which have high eye pressure and cause vision loss. They cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve and the eye damage develops over many years. Lowering eye pressure can prevent or slow the progression of glaucoma. Treatments are available to decrease eye pressure.

By 2020, the number of people with glaucoma is expected to rise to 80 million due to the rapidly growing aging population. The earlier glaucoma is detected, the greater the potential of limiting the economic impact of the disease by using appropriate treatment.

“Glaucoma is not just a disease of the elderly. Now is the time to change the public mindset about glaucoma,” said Scott Christensen, President of the World Glaucoma Patient Association and President and Chief Executive Officer of The Glaucoma Foundation. “People over the age of 40 need to make eye health a priority by having a complete eye examination every two years to ensure detection of glaucoma before any vision loss is experienced.”

Less than half surveyed have undergone an eye pressure check. This proportion did not increase in the older age groups, even though the risk of glaucoma increases with age. This was in contrast to blood pressure, where more respondents discussed blood pressure with their physician in the older age groups.

“Accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment of glaucoma can prevent damage to the optic nerve and preserve healthy vision, which is why check-ups are so important,” said Professor Roger Hitchings, Professor of Ophthalmology, University College London and Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Moorfields Eye Hospital. “Everyone should proactively assess their risk of glaucoma with an eye specialist. A complete eye exam for glaucoma will include an eye pressure check, an optic nerve assessment and visual field examination.”

All Eyes on Glaucoma Resources

One of the key components of the All Eyes on Glaucoma initiative is a new, informative website, AllEyesOnGlaucoma, where people can learn the proper steps to protect their vision, including the completion of an “Am I At Risk?” questionnaire and download tools including the “Conversation Starter” which can be taken to their eye specialist. Visitors will also be directed to local glaucoma organizations in their area for questions and support services.

About the International Survey

A multi-country survey of individuals aged 40 and above was conducted by the GfK Group. The survey included 4,352 people (2,020 males and 2,332 females) in seven countries including Australia, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases. The two most common forms are:
Open-angle glaucoma – when the pressure in the eye increases over time due to poor drainage of the aqueous humour.
Angle-closure glaucoma – when the iris is too close to the drainage canal (trabecular meshwork).

Anyone can develop glaucoma, but the risk becomes greater as you age. People who are more likely to develop it:

– Have high eye pressure
– Are markedly nearsighted5

– Have a family history of glaucoma5
– Are of African descent (open-angle glaucoma)5
– Are of Asian descent (angle-closure glaucoma)1
– Have high blood pressure

The only modifiable glaucoma risk factor is high eye pressure, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). This is the leading cause of glaucoma, although it is possible to develop the condition without it. Due to the build-up of natural fluid produced by the eye, high eye pressure causes permanent damage to the optic nerve, the “cable” used by the eye to communicate to the brain. High eye pressure may exist without noticeable symptoms so many people do not know they have it if their vision is not checked regularly. In fact, people may not notice vision loss until 40 percent or more of their optic nerve has been damaged.8 IOP is an easily identifiable risk factor, however people who fall within the normal IOP range may still be at risk for glaucoma.

About the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Association

Both the WGA and WGPA exist to better the lives of glaucoma patients around the world. The WGA attempts to optimize the quality of glaucoma science and care through communication and cooperation among national and regional Glaucoma Societies, with companies involved with glaucoma, glaucoma patient organizations and many others in the glaucoma community, and by the enhancement of glaucoma management by ophthalmologists around the world. The WGPA works globally to encourage the establishment of and cooperation among national Glaucoma Patient Associations worldwide. The group serves as an umbrella organization to provide useful information to individuals, health care providers and support groups that are devoting their efforts to the fight against glaucoma.

About Pfizer Ophthalmics

Pfizer Ophthalmics, a division of Pfizer Inc, is committed to preserving sight and eliminating preventable blindness. Pfizer Ophthalmics discovers, develops and provides leading treatments in ophthalmology to support patients who are at risk of blindness or suffering from vision impairment, and to serve the health care professionals who treat them.

1. World Health Organization. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. In Focus, Nov. 1 2004

2. Congdon NG, Friedman DS, Lietman T. Important Causes of Visual Impairment in the World Today. JAMA. 2003; 290: 2057-2060.

3. Quigley HA, Broman AT. The number of people with glaucoma worldwide in 2010 and 2020. Br J Ophthalmol 2006; 90: 262-267

4. Lee PP, Walt JG, Doyle JJ et al. A multicenter, retrospective pilot study of resource use and costs associated with severity of disease in glaucoma. Arch Ophthalmol 2006; 124(1): 12-19

5. The Glaucoma Foundation. Who’s At Risk? Available at: glaucomafoundation/Risk.htm. Accessed on August 24, 2007.

6. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Guarding Against Glaucoma. Available here. Accessed on August 24, 2007.

7. The Glaucoma Foundation. About Glaucoma. Available here. Accessed on August 24, 2007.

8. Distelhorts JS, Hughes GM. Open angle glaucoma. American Family Physician. 2003; 67(9): 1937-1944


Uninsured Americans Less Likely To Receive Eye Care Than Canadians And Insured Americans

comparison with Canadians, Americans with vision problems are equally
or more likely to access eye care services, if they have health
insurance. Without health insurance, Americans visit eyecare
professionals at lower rates, according to a report released August 11,
2008 in the Archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives

article highlights barriers to access to regular eye care in both
countries: “In both Canada and the United States, general health
insurance covers
medical payment for eye injury and various eye diseases such as
cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, and optional vision
insurance provides additional insurance coverage for eye examinations,
contact lenses and eyeglasses and/or frames, and, in some instances,
part of the costs for elective laser surgery for vision correction.”
They continue, noting that “many Americans and Canadians have publicly
or private coverage for optional vision care.”

In order to
analyze the differences between eye care access in Canada and the
United States, particularly in light of health insurance status, Xinzhi
M.D., Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in
Atlanta and colleagues, conducted a survey to examine disparities in
eye care service use in 2,018 Canadians and 2,930 Americans with vision
problems between 2002 and 2003.

the Americans with vision problems surveyed 8.2% did not have health
insurance. This group had the lowest eye care service rate, defined as
a visit to an eye care professional in the last year, with 42%. In
contrast, Americans with private health insurance had a service rate of
67% and Canadians had a rate of 55%.?�A higher likelihood of
care service use was associated with higher incomes and with optional
vision insurance. The authors summarize: “The difference in use of eye
care services
between Americans without health insurance and Canadians narrowed when
adjusted for income level and was almost eliminated when adjusted for
having optional vision insurance.”

The authors conclude that the gap in health insurance status
contributes significantly to the disparity in eye care. “Among
adults with vision problems, a public health gap exists in actual
access to eye care services between Canada and the United States,
primarily owing to the population without health insurance in the
United States,” they say. “However, although health insurance is
associated with increased use of preventive services and recommended
treatments, simply providing health insurance to all persons may be
insufficient to increase the percentage of individuals who use eye care
services or to improve vision-related outcomes; economic status and
optional vision insurance are also significantly associated with rates
of use of eye care services.”

conclude that, to provide effective interventions in eye care,
officials should take an approach that targets low income
groups:?�“Therefore, public health
interventions targeting adults with vision problems without health
insurance might be more beneficial if they focused on those at risk for
serious vision loss, especially those in the lowest income group.”

Health Insurance Coverage and Use of Eye Care Services
Zhang, MD, PhD; Paul P. Lee, MD, JD; Theodore J. Thompson, MS; Sanjay
Sharma, MD, MS, MBA; Lawrence Barker, PhD; Linda S. Geiss, MA;
Giuseppina Imperatore, PhD; Edward W. Gregg, PhD; Xuanping Zhang, PhD;
Jinan B. Saaddine, MD, MPH
Arch Ophthalmol. 2008;126(8):1121-1126.
Here For Abstract

Anna Sophia McKenney