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Second Sight Medical Products Delivers a Kick to the Giftbag for Retinitis Pigmentosa

This is very exciting news for the realm of artificial vision.  I have someone I look up to that suffers from Retinitis Pigmentosa, and it sucks to see this degenerative disease affect this man’s sight.

But:  advances are being made in “bionic” tech all the time that tries to bridge the gap between natural vision and artificially enhanced vision – and since we don’t understand that much about how the brain translates sight into information for the brain, every time there is a breakthrough in technology in this arena, it’s a big deal!

First, what is Retinitis Pigmentosa?  It sounds like something that is not very good, and in fact it is not.  From Wikipedia and the NIH:

Fundus of patient with retinitis pigmentosa, mid stage (Bone spicule-shaped pigment deposits are present in the mid periphery along with retinal atrophy, while the macula is preserved although with a peripheral ring of depigmentation. Retinal vessels are attenuated.) Hamel Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2006

Fundus of patient with retinitis pigmentosa, mid stage (Bone spicule-shaped pigment deposits are present in the mid periphery along with retinal atrophy, while the macula is preserved although with a peripheral ring of depigmentation. Retinal vessels are attenuated.) Hamel Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases 2006

Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and often blindness.[1] Sufferers will experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Night blindness or nyctalopia;
  • Tunnel vision (no peripheral vision);
  • Peripheral vision (no central vision);
  • Latticework vision;
  • Aversion to glare;
  • Slow adjustment from dark to light environments and vice versa;
  • Blurring of vision;
  • Poor color separation; and
  • Extreme tiredness.

The progress of RP is not consistent. Some people will exhibit symptoms from infancy, others may not notice symptoms until later in life.[2] Generally, the later the onset, the more rapid is the deterioration in sight. Also notice that people who do not have RP have 90 degree peripheral vision, while some people that have RP have less than 90 degree.

A form of retinal dystrophy, RP is caused by abnormalities of the photoreceptors (rods and cones) or the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of the retina leading to progressive sight loss. Affected individuals may experience defective light to dark, dark to light adaptation or nyctalopia (night blindness), as the result of the degeneration of the peripheral visual field (known as tunnel vision). Sometimes, central vision is lost first causing the person to look sidelong at objects.

The effect of RP is best illustrated by comparison to a television or computer screen. The pixels of light that form the image on the screen equate to the millions of light receptors on the retina of the eye. The fewer pixels on a screen, the less distinct will be the images it will display. Fewer than 10 percent of the light receptors in the eye receive the colored, high intensity light seen in bright light or daylight conditions. These receptors are located in the center of the circular retina. The remaining 90 percent of light receptors receive gray-scale, low intensity light used for low light and night vision and are located around the periphery of the retina. RP destroys light receptors from the outside inward, from the center outward, or in sporadic patches with a corresponding reduction in the efficiency of the eye to detect light. This degeneration is progressive and has no known cure as of June 2012.

That sucks so much.  However, now you have to meet Second Sight Medical Products’ Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System, which just got FDA approval for patent this week:

All I can say about this is holy crap.

argus-2-system-overview

From the MedGadget article on the Argus II system:

The bionic eye works by replacing the disease-damaged photoreceptors of the eye with tiny chips that translate light into electrical signals, which in turn stimulate the optic nerve. The normal retina is really not a camera, and the optic nerve does not send pixels, per say, to the brain, but rather a highly processed and optimally encoded representation of the visual scene. The fact that bionic eyes like the Argus II can work at all — and indeed so well — is due more to the brain’s ability to make sense out of whatever relevant signals it receives, than to current understanding of how the retina actually works. As researchers advance their understanding of  the retina, bionic eye technology will continue to advance hand-in-hand to provide new vision to the blind at ever higher resolution.

This is amazing technology.  I hope that the Argus II system can restore vision in those who have lost it due to terrible degenerative diseases like RP.

To my buddy:  hang in there, big man.  I’m always on the lookout.

Side note:  under the Did You Know? section of the Argus II System website:

The Latin word “Argus” refers to a giant in Greek mythology with 100 eyes, Argus Panoptes, who was considered all-seeing. Argus was the servant of Hera, goddess of women and marriage as well as the wife of Zeus. Zeus seduced the nymph Io who was also the priestess of Hera.  In order to hide her from Zeus, Hera transformed her into a white heifer and asked Argus to watch over Io and protect her from Zeus.

Too cool, Second Sight.

Bionic Eye Man Wirelessly Records His World

rob-spence

This is an awesome quick minute of video of a man who lost his eye in a shooting accident.  He had his eye socket fitted with a wirelessly transmitting video recorder.  Now this is an idea that I can totally get behind, especially if we give it to Howard Stern or Mancow…

I kid about the Howard Stern thing.  Misogyny stopped being funny when I was 5 or 6.  Meet Rob Spence, the man behind the “Bionic Eye” he’s created to go in the empty eye socket.  Here’s Rob with version 2.0 of the Bionic Eye:

Eyeborg Phase II from eyeborg on Vimeo.

LED eye bionic jumping, teaser footage of experimenting with eye-camera prototype, action!  Rob Spence is a filmmaker who lost his eye and decided to replace it with a wireless video camera.  Check out Kosta Grammatis glancing about nervously as Fox News guffaws about our bionic lab.

An article from IEEE Spectrum talks about Spence’s internal eye equipment:

The bionic eye is simply designed, and components are constantly changing. It basically contains a 1.5mm-square, low-res video camera, a small round printed circuit board, video transmitter, and a 3-volt rechargeable Varta microbattery. The components are contained in resealable clear acrylic used in false eyes, but it has two holes for wires to recharge the battery.

“I can recharge my eye via USB off my laptop,” says Spence.

The Eyeborg prototype in the video, the third, can only work for an hour an a half on a fully charged battery. Its transmitter is quite weak, so Spence has to hold a receiving antenna to his cheek to get a clear signal. He muses that he should build a Seven of Nine-style eyepiece to house it. He’s experimenting with a new prototype that has a stronger transmitter, other frequencies and a booster on the receiver.

This is an example of sacrifice for the good of all mankind.  Rob, we salute you.

What Exactly are Eye Floaters?

“I’ll look over there!”

“I’ll move over HERE!”

“You got an answer for everything.”

So.  Have you ever been looking at a book, the sky, or anything really, and seen what most people call “eye floaters?”  You know, the really weird almost chromosome-looking things that seem to just effortlessly and painlessly dance across our vision whenever the hell they want?  Like so:

These little buggers are the product of eye aging and the disintegration of the goo inside the eyeball itself.  If you’ve ever spent any time at all staring at eye floaters, you know that they can be fairly entertaining!

Inside of the eye ball, there is a liquid that gives the eye its shape and acts as a light medium (consequently with a Refractive Index of 1.336) to get light to the retina.  This liquid isn’t quite a liquid and isn’t quite a gel, but the consistency of it is sort of like that of Jell-O.  it’s called the Vitreous Humor, or the Vitreous body, or simply just the Vitreous.  This stuff is pretty neat, as it’s completely transparent as we’re born through teen-hood.  The vitreous is made of about 99% water, along with some sugars, some salts, some collagen fibers, and these pretty cool cells called phagocytes.  The phagocytes’ main purpose is to hunt down and kill foreign bodies in the eye’s vitreous body and visual field.  Pretty cool, eh?

The vitreous body is a stagnant body of fluid; it does not have a regeneration process either, which means if you sustain some damage to an eye or both, they’re gone, as once the vitreous is gone, it is gone forever.  This is a great reason to ALWAYS wear safety goggles and eye protection whenever you’re doing something that could impact the eye ball.  I had a pretty scary experience one summer when I was still in undergraduate study, away on an opera tour.  I was building the set we were touring, and a piece of a table saw blade sheared away and shot itself right into my eyeball.  I spent several hours at the hospital as the doc tried to grab that piece of metal and dislodge it from my eyeball, about 3 millimeters from the edge of my pupil.  I got lucky.  I did have safety glasses on, too – which goes to show you that you can never be too careful.  After the ER doc dug that piece of blade out of my eye, they inserted a plastic lens attached to a bag of saline that drained around my eyeball to clean out any extra debris.  The resulting pic was pretty hilarious, and I was in good spirits, making jokes.  Ann Davis, thingmaker extraordinaire, took the photo, circa 1998:

As we get older, parts of the Vitreous degenerate and clump, creating the little eye floaters we’re so fond of seeing.  These things remain in the eye for as long as we are old, until we either A) die, or B) have them surgically removed.  For most people these things aren’t a problem at all, we just deal with them.  For some, however, they become so numerous and so vision-impairing that surgery IS required for removal of all of the clumped bits of whatever matter the eye floaters are made from — old proteins, bits of clumped collagen cell bundles, foreign bodies, retinal cells, etcetera.

Eye floaters do have some different types — from Wikipedia’s entry on floaters:

The common type of floater, which is present in most people’s eyes, is due to degenerative changes of the vitreous humour. The perception of floaters is known as myodesopsia, or less commonly as myiodeopsiamyiodesopsia, or myodeopsia.  They are also called Muscae volitantes (from the Latin, meaning “flying flies”), or mouches volantes (from the French). Floaters are visible because of the shadows they cast on the retina or their refraction of the light that passes through them, and can appear alone or together with several others in one’s field of vision. They may appear as spots, threads, or fragments of cobwebs, which float slowly before the observer’s eyes.  Since these objects exist within the eye itself, they are not optical illusions but are entoptic phenomena.

What I find cool about eye floaters is that you’re actually seeing the shadow of the floaters on your retina, like a Linnebach projector.  Remember those?  As the light passes through the iris, it blows through the vitreous body and the floaters get in the way, causing shadows on the retina that your brain decodes as the floaters’ shape and size.

Now let me say this — most times, eye floaters are harmless bits of entertainment that all people have in some form or another.  However, sometimes eye floaters can be indications of a larger problem, like eye disease brought around by diabetes, carotid artery disease, or even as an indicator of a stroke or heart attack that may be imminent.  Sometimes eye floaters might be accompanied by flashes of light; this is a certain time to hit the doctor’s office.  A lesser known ailment, one that keeps on giving, per se, is ocular herpes.  As scary as that sounds, it is!  The vitreous can also become detached, too — as you age, the vitreous body sort of liquefies and detaches from the retina, which also causes eye floaters.  I’m certainly not a doctor, and you should use your own judgement when it comes to your health.  But if you have lots and lots and lots of floaters, perhaps it’s time to visit your doc.

A detailed article about determining when your eye floaters might indicate a larger problem is here – check it out.

Some fun facts on eye floaters, from Today I Found Out:

  • Interestingly, if the eye floaters would just stay still instead of floating around, your brain would automatically tune them out and you’d never consciously see them.  Your brain does this all the time with things both in and outside of your eyes.  One example of this inside your eye are blood vessels in the eye which obstruct light; because they are fixed in location, relative to the retina, your brain tunes them out completely and you don’t consciously perceive them.
  • The reason you can see floaters better when looking at, for instance, a bright blue sky, is because your pupils contract to a very small size, thus reducing the aperture, which in turn makes floaters more apparent and focused.
  • Individual floaters often won’t change much throughout your lifetime, typically retaining their basic shape and size.
  • The perception of eye floaters is known as myodesopsia.
  • The reason the floating specs never seem to stay still is because floaters, being suspended in the vitreous humor,  move when your eye moves.  So as you try to look at them, they will appear to drift with your eye movement.
  • Eye floaters are examples of entoptic phenomena.  Entoptic phenomena are things we see where the source is within the eye itself.
  • If you ever see a ton of floaters appear out of no where, possibly with some light flashes, you should get to an eye doctor immediately.  There is a chance (1 in 7) that your retina is about to detach from the back of your eye.  If that happens, you have very little time to get it fixed before it effectively dies and you go blind from that eye.
  • Floaters can damage the retina by tugging on it, sometimes producing a tear.  When a tear happens, vitreous can invade the opening in the tear, which will ultimately widen the gap and in 50% of these cases will result in the retina eventually becoming fully detached if not repaired via surgery.
  • “Light flashes” not caused by actual light, also known as photopsia, will often occur when the photoreceptors in the retina receive stimulation from being touched or from being torn.  This produces an electrical impulse to your brain, which your brain more or less interprets as a light flash.  This physical stimulation is often caused when traction is being applied while the vitreous detachment is taking place.  The flashes should subside when the vitreous finally detaches.
  • These flashes will also often temporarily occur when you get a sharp blow to the head.  The sudden jarring causes pressure on the retina; this in turn creates an electrical impulse to the brain which the brain interprets as a flash.

Thanks to About, Earth Clinic, eHow, WiseGeek, All About Vision, WikiDoc, LoveEyeFloaters, and TheBrain!

An LED Surgical Headlight Camera System?

A good friend and emergency room doctor asked me one time – “can you design an LED high-output head-mounted fixture that I can use in the ER to look into areas of the body?”  My friend’s question came out of the fact that apparently the existing head-mounted illuminators used in hospitals and doctor’s offices across the world are not necessarily the most convenient of apparatus to use.  Most of them are also not made of LED sources, like this one:

Doesn’t this seem like a perfect opportunity for a high output cold white LED?

As I look at this image above that I got via a trade publication in the medical industry, I have to wonder what a high power source like Xenon is doing being used in an application like this when LED tech could easily be utilized.  LEDs are also being used in several facets of the medical industry, including some of the large medical tasklights found in operating rooms and examination rooms.

Looking at this design, I had to ask myself why an S-video connection and composite is being used to send camera data instead of something digital like DVI or HDMI.  Obviously there is no audio in this setup nor would there need to be.  My concern is detail – if you’re looking at parts of the body that need examining after the fact, wouldn’t the best idea be to have your device outputting something HD?  I’m probably looking at this medical technology and wondering how I could incorporate it into entertainment lighting or some effed up fascination like that.

My guess is that an LED source would make the cost of this device a hell of a lot less expensive, too.  It would certainly last a lot longer!

Don’t worry, Welch Allyn, I’m not picking on you!

Digital Lightbox

Doctors use such a simple concept to read x-ray imagery and other tests to diagnose what needs to be diagnosed – a light box.  I just read about something called Digital Lightbox, employing the same backlit usefulness, but also turning that surface into a extra-large wall-mounted iPhone.  Check this video out:

I gotta ask my friend the ER doc what he thinks of this concept.  What do medical professionals like?  What’s productive for you if you’re someone who works in the field?

I can’t wait to see who comes up with an interactive lighting control surface for architectural and entertainment design – that’s gonna have to be one righteous desk.

Light Activation Treatment for Parkinson’s Disease

gcamp

A team of optogeneticists in California have discovered a technique that activates brain cells with flashes of light.  Using these photoreactive proteins called channelrhodopsins, scientists are able to “turn on” these proteins, and deactivate them with another color of light.  In this case, blue light turned the channelrhodopsins on, and yellow turned it off.  From the article:

The team, led by Karl Deisseroth, a psychiatrist at Stanford University, discovered that inserting channel rhodopsins into neurons allowed them to be activated by blue light. An engineered protein known as halo-rhodopsin can then be used to silence neurons by being exposed to yellow light. In the process of their research, the team also discovered a group of cells that may be responsible for the positive results of the fledgling treatment. By targeting these neurons specifically, scientists may soon have a much more effective and much less invasive method of treating Parkinson’s.

Octomom what?  Channel who?  Optogenetics is the study of using light-sensitive proteins to activate parts of the brain.  The channelrhodopsins are the light activated proteins.  It’s possible that research in this field could lead to more effective and less invasive Parkinson’s patients.

Mini UV-C Disinfectant Wand

I feel like there has been a ton of info on ultraviolet light lately as a germicidal method.  I just ran across an article giving a review on this little mini-UV class C light that sanitizes surfaces:

mini_wand_toilet

Okay, now is it me, or is that lady way too happy to be using her mini-wand on the ol’ porcelain throne?  She is thrilled!  Using the Germ Guardian UV-C Mini Sanitizer Wand is not only good for killing bacteria, but it must be a hoot too!

Simply pass the Germ Guardian Mini Sanitizer Wand over surfaces to kill up to 99% of bacteria and viruses.  Also fights unwanted odors and allergens like mold spores and dust mites. Ideal for – toilets, showers, phones, computers, sinks, countertops, bedding and shoes. Take it with you when you travel!

I guess it’s pretty easy to use – button on, button off operation, and it’s good on batteries. It has a safety device in it that turns the lamp off if it’s tilted up – probably to prevent eye damage – which, according to Scott Merrill over at CrunchGear, was kind of a pain in practice although a good idea in theory.

Gosh, even I’m excited for the lady nuking that toilet!

miniwand_hand_shot

Ah, How The E. Coli Glows Under UV Light

fluorescing-bacteria

On the medical side of light for a change – up in Houghton, Michigan, scientists at Michigan Technical University have developed a way to make the E. coli bacteria glow like little indigo lightbulbs under ultraviolet light.  Apparently the E. coli bacteria really likes the sugar mannose, and just can’t get enough.  Scientists at MTU added some manose molecules to a specially-engineered fluorescent polymer, and then mixed it into some water where E. coli was having a party.  The little cilia on the E. coli bacteria hooked onto the mannose like a used dryer sheet in the winter in Colorado (that’s a static electricity joke) and coated the bacteria with the fluorescing polymer.  BAM – glowing E. coli.

This technology is

Scientists at Michigan Technological University developed a method to make the E. coli bacteria glow under UV light. The researchers believe that the technique of attaching a mannose sugar molecule selectively to pathogens can lead to a clinical method of pinpointing bacterial and maybe even tumor clusters.

From the Michigan Tech press release:

The researchers’ trick takes advantage of E. coli’s affinity for the sugar mannose. Liu’s team attached mannose molecules to specially engineered fluorescent polymers and stirred them into a container of water swimming with E. coli. Microscopic hairs on the bacteria, called pili, hooked onto the mannose molecules like Velcro, effectively coating the bacteria with the polymers.Then the researchers shined white light onto E. coli colonies growing in the solution. The bugs lit up like blue fireflies. “They became very colorful and easy to see under a microscope,” said Liu.

The technique could be adapted to identify a wide array of pathogens by mixing and matching from a library of different sugars and polymers that fluoresce different colors under different frequencies of light. If blue means E. coli, fuchsia could one day mean influenza.

With funding from a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institutes of Health, Liu is adapting the technique to combat breast cancer. Instead of mannose, he plans to link the fluorescent polymers to a peptide that homes in on cancer cells.

Once introduced to the vascular system, the polymers would travel through the body and stick to tumor cells. Then, illuminated by a type of infrared light that shines through human tissue, the polymers would glow, providing a beacon to pinpoint the location of the malignant cells.

If you’re so inclined, check out the abstract here.

ecoli

Thanks, MedGadget!