Man’s eyesight restored with his own stem cells


London: A 38-year-old-man has had his vision restored with stem cells after being blinded in an ammonia attack.

Russell Turnbull, 38, lost the sight in one eye in 1994 when he was squirted with ammonia after trying to stop a row on a bus in Newcastle.

He was left with Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency (LSCD), a painful condition which requires constant treatment.

The new treatment was developed by scientists at Newcastle University.Their method involves taking a small amount of stem cells from a patient’s good eye, cultivating them in a laboratory, and implanting them into the damaged cornea.

He was was treated at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) and is one of of eight patients who successfully underwent the treatment developed at the North East England Stem Cell Institute (NESCI).

It is hoped that the technique could eventually be rolled out into clinics.

Music helps stroke victims – new study


London: Patients who have lost part of their visual awareness following a stroke can show an improved ability to see when they are listening to music they like, according to a new study published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Every year, an estimated 150,000 people in the UK have a stroke. Up to 60% of stroke patients have impaired visual awareness of the outside world as a result, where they have trouble interacting with certain objects in the visual world.

This impaired visual awareness, known as ‘visual neglect’, is due to the damage that a stroke causes in brain areas that are critical for the integration of vision, attention and action. Visual neglect causes the patient to lose awareness of objects in the opposite side of space compared to the site of their brain injury.

If the stroke occurs in the right hemisphere of the brain, these patients tend to lose awareness of visual information in the left side of space. This occurs even though the area of the brain associated with sight is not damaged.

The researchers behind the study, from Imperial College London, the University of Birmingham and other institutions, suggest that listening to their favourite music may help stroke patients with impaired visual awareness to regain their ability to see.

The new study looked at three patients who had lost awareness of half of their field of vision as a result of a stroke. The patients completed tasks under three conditions: while listening to their preferred music, while listening to music they did not like and in silence. All three patients could identify coloured shapes and red lights in their depleted side of vision much more accurately while they were listening to their preferred music, compared with listening to music they did not like or silence.

For example, in one task, patients were asked to press a button when they could see a red light appear. One patient could point out the light in 65% of cases while he was listening to music he liked, but could only recognise the light in 15% of cases when there was no music or music he did not like being played.

The researchers believe that the improvement in visual awareness seen in these patients could be as a result of patients experiencing positive emotions when listening to music that they like. The team suggest that when a patient experiences positive emotions this may result in more efficient signalling in the brain. This may then improve the patient’s awareness by giving the brain more resources to process stimuli.

The team also used functional MRI scans to look at the way the brain functioned while the patients performed different tasks. They found that listening to pleasant music as the patients performed the visual tasks activated the brain in areas linked to positive emotional responses to stimuli. When the brain was activated in this way, the activation in emotion brain regions was coupled with the improvement of the patients’ awareness of the visual world.

Dr David Soto, the lead author of the study from the Division of Neurosciences and Mental Health at Imperial College London, said: “Visual neglect can be a very distressing condition for stroke patients. It has a big effect on their day-to-day lives. For example, in extreme cases, patients with visual neglect may eat only the food on the right side of their plate, or shave only half of their face, thus failing to react to certain objects in the environment”.

“We wanted to see if music would improve visual awareness in these patients by influencing the individual’s emotional state. Our results are very promising, although we would like to look at a much larger group of patients with visual neglect and with other neuropsychological impairments. Our findings suggest that we should think more carefully about the individual emotional factors in patients with visual neglect and in other neurological patients following a stroke. Music appears to improve awareness because of its positive emotional effect on the patient, so similar beneficial effects may also be gained by making the patient happy in other ways. This is something we are keen to investigate further,” added Dr Soto.

This research was funded by the British Academy, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council and Stroke Association.

1. About Imperial College London

Consistently rated amongst the world’s best universities, Imperial College London is a science-based institution with a reputation for excellence in teaching and research that attracts 13,000 students and 6,000 staff of the highest international quality.

Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and business, delivering practical solutions that improve quality of life and the environment – underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.

Since its foundation in 1907, Imperial’s contributions to society have included the discovery of penicillin, the development of holography and the foundations of fibre optics. This commitment to the application of research for the benefit of all continues today, with current focuses including interdisciplinary collaborations to improve health in the UK and globally, tackle climate change and develop clean and sustainable sources of energy.


British men ignore eye health, reveals new survey

London: British men are seriously neglecting their eyes, according to a national study for Vision Express, the UK national chain of optometrists.

A poll of more than 2,000 men and women found that more than two-thirds of men (67%) have spent nothing on eye care in the last 12 months in contrast to 53% of women.

Men said that hair care was a higher priority, with investment in hair care dwarfing investment in eye care over a twelve month period. 80% have spent money on hair care and 34% have spent £50 or more in the last 12 months.

The study also found that women are twice as likely to invest in hair care as they are in eye care, which attracts similar levels of investment to amounts spent on nail care or foot care.

“It seems crazy that we spend more on our appearance than we do on preserving our ability to see,” said Bryan Magrath, CEO of Vision Express. “Our eye sight is vital and is under all sorts of pressures in the workplace and in our leisure time. An eye exam should be part of our annual health regime.”

Recent trials of new digital retinal cameras at Vision Express found that in one in 20 examinations, patients were referred to the NHS for specialist examination due to the detection of anomalies. Vision Express has just completed the £multi-million roll-out of the new digital retinal cameras, capable of taking images of the interior of the eye.

The study also found that across the adult population, the 18-24 year old age group are most neglectful of their eye sight. Nearly one in 10 (8%) in this age bracket claim to have never had their eyes tested.

Vision Express is partnering with the Institute of Ophthalmology this year to explore further improvements in eye examination techniques across its national network of more than 300 High Street locations. The partnership forms part of Vision Express’s commitment to being the leading High Street specialist in eye care and eye health.
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About Vision Express

Vision Express is one of Britain’s leading chains of opticians, with a national network of more than 300 stores. Built on a passion for the optical profession and a drive for unparalleled customer service, Vision Express opened the first ‘one hour’ Opticians in 1988 and remains the pioneer of a genuine one-hour service today. Vision Express is part of Europe’s largest optical retailing network that includes eye care brands Grand Optical, Solaris and Generale D’Optique.

Vision & Hearing Loss

Age-related eye diseases — macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma — affect millions of people aged over 40. But the numbers are shooting up as we live longer.

Foods containing high levels of antioxidants are thought to be helpful in reducing vision loss, and these should be taken before the age of 40.

Deterioration accelerates in smokers.Regular eye exams should include screening for glaucoma.

The incidence of hearing loss increases with age. Twenty-nine percent of those with hearing loss are 45-65; 43% of those with hearing loss are 65 or older.

Hearing loss takes a toll on the quality of life and can lead to depression and withdrawal from social activities. Although hearing aids can help, only one out of four people use them.

High-frequency hearing loss is common in old age and made worse by a lifestyle that includes exposure to loud sounds whether its a concert or from Walkmans, iPods etc.