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9. Optic Nerve
Lion Larry Leguire
"Get your Olympic size bologna sandwiches; fat free and calorie! Get your ice water Ė so cold it will freeze your lips", I exclaimed.
"Prove it"! Shouted the little Boy Scout who was selling refreshments in the next booth.
"Prove what"? I retorted as we both sold refreshments at the annual Arts-in-the-Alley festival in Grove City Ohio.
"Prove that water is so cold it will freeze your lips".
"Get away from me kid; youíre bugging me", I said in a joking fashion. But the little Boy Scout persevered. So I drank some of the ice cold water and, sure enough, my lips wouldnít budge and I could only let-out a muffled voiceÖmm, mmmÖSee! It froze my lips together, I said (after they thawed-out). The Boy Scout still didnít believe me and, you know, he had good reason.
I had fun that day, working our LIONS booth at Arts-in-the-Alley. The proceeds were to benefit Pilot Dogs - one of the many worthy causes us LIONS members support throughout Ohio, indeed, throughout the World.
The story about the suspicious little Boy Scout actually plays-out over and over again not only in daily life but in Science, in particular. Scientists, of whom I am one, are a suspicious lot Ė questioning everything that crosses our desk or, perhaps more appropriately, that crosses our skeptical minds. For that is one undeniable characteristic of being a Scientist, is to search for the truth. But it may not be as easy as answering that little Boy Scoutís question, even if my answer wasnít 100% truthful.
He knew I was joking and he knew that I knew that cold water canít freeze your lips together. But sometimes the answer isnít so obvious. Sometimes years and perhaps decades may go by in which people believe something, until it is proven wrong - Like ulcers being cause by stress and hot, spicy food (they're actually caused by bacteria, as the 2005 Nobel Laureates in Medicine discovered over 20 years ago).
It isnít easy to go against common sense or to go against popular opinion when youíre trying to prove what is true or at least what you firmly believe is true. It isnít easy to do what others say canít be done. It isnít easy being in the minority. I guess scientists must be, in a way, masochistic. If you have low self-esteem or arenít sure of yourself, you shouldnít be a scientist. If you care a great deal about what others say about you, and the "others" may even be your fellow scientists sometimes, you shouldnít go into science. But in the end, whether your right or wrong, you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe in what youíre doing and what you believe is the truth. And sometimes, if youíre proven wrong, you can rest with the knowledge that you gave it your best.
I guess being a scientist is in many ways like being a LIONS member. It isnít always easy to do what you know is the right thing. Wouldnít it be easier to sleep-in until 9am rather than getting up at 5am to go sell those pancakes at a fundraiser for blinding eye disease? Wouldnít it be easier to sit in front of the TV on a Wednesday night rather than drive across town to the LIONS meeting? Wouldnít it be easier to go with the crowd and not volunteer your time, money and efforts for a worthy cause? But we, as LIONS members, know what is right. Thatís why we get up at 5am and that is why we stand in the rain to solicit donations from strangers. We know it is the right thing to do.
Do the right thing and be sure your LIONS club donates to the Ohio LIONS Eye Research Foundation - Not because it is easy but because it is the right thing to do.
Why I stood Outside of Wal-Mart and Collected Donations for 2
Special THANKS to Wal-Mart for helping the LIONS help others in our community!
L. E. Leguire Ph.D., MBA
You know what really makes me made?
Well, first I have to digress and tell you what I do for a living.
a special kind of doctor who works at
The current topic was brought-up when I saw a child who happened to have a serious, blinding eye disease. The mother and I were talking about something, Im not really sure what, but she raised the idea that there was actually a cure for her childs eye disease but that drug companies and scientists were withholding the cure because they would end-up losing money if the cure was made available! I wish I could say that this was the first time that Ive heard such a thing but, in reality, I hear it too often. And this is what makes me mad.
Imagine dedicating your whole life to searching for treatments and cures and to increase knowledge about eye disease. Late nights and weekends blur into one as you and your dedicated staff of students, doctors, technicians and patients work through research for a cure. Because youre on a salary, you dont make more by staying late. You dont make a penny more by working weekends. It actually costs you money to work long hours and to work weekends. Now imagine a person saying to you that all youre doing is a big, fat lie and you do it all for the money!
Imagine that youre an Ophthalmologist or Optometrist and you have to break the news to parents that their child has an eye disease that leads to blindness. You answer questions and more questions from the unset parents and then they ask about treatment? There is no treatment, the eye doctor explains. There is no cure. There is nothing we can do. How long does Sara have before she goes blind, the parents ask? And the questions continue and no one likes the answers. Crying is a big part of breaking bad news, so there are plenty of tissues in the eye doctors office to go around. Sometimes the eye doctor and nurses need tissues, too.
If there was a cure for any of the nontreatable and blinding eye disease that I see every day, I would shout it from the highest mountain. I would type it into cyber space and be on the internet until my fingers were callused and numb. And, if I ever had the honor and distinction of finding a cure for a blinding eye disease I would cry with delite.
But one thing is certain: Nothing in this whole wide World could ever prevent me, or any of the thousands of other dedicated scientists and eye doctors, from telling the truth about the cure.
Thats why it makes me so mad and sad.
There are no conspiracies. There are no lies or secret cures. No one is holding back a cure so us scientists and the drug companies can make lots of money. It just doesnt work that way.
There are, however, many very difficult problems. We know so little about so much. This is why research is so important. Cures dont just happen! It takes hard work and long hours to make microscopic progress. We cant do it alone. We need your help and the help of every lions member and LIONS club. Get involved and get informed!
the motto of the
L. E. Leguire Ph.D., MBA
On October 21, 2002 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning to consumers about the dangers of decorative contact lenses used without a prescription or professional fitting (P02-43). Well documented cases exist showing the dangers of decorative contact lenses, including corneal infection and scarring, conjunctivitis, corneal abrasions, loss of visual acuity and even blindness. OhioLionsEyeResearch.com issued an early warning last year against the use of such contact lenses.
Decorative contact lenses are the contact lenses that change eye color or/and include designs like "cat-eyes" or even sport team logos. Since an exam and a prescription for an eye doctor are not required for such decorative contact lenses, they can be purchased from regular retail outlets like video stores and game arcades. They are most often used by teenagers, who swap lenses much like they swap music CDs. One major problem and concern is that when teenagers swap decorative contact lenses they're also swapping eye disease and infections, possibly even AIDS.
The dangers of such decorative contact lenses justified earlier warnings from the FDA as well as warnings from almost every national eye health organization including Prevent Blindness America, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Optometric Association. So it can as a great and unexpected surprise on April 4, 2003 when a notice appeared in the Federal Register (Docket No. 03D-0118) that the FDA reclassified decorative contact lenses as "cosmetic", thus removing them from most FDA regulations. With this flawed FDA decision, cheap, imported contact lenses are about to flood the US market and lead to thousands of cases of eye disease, vision loss and blindness!
Based on the 2001 US census report, there are approximately 80,000,000 children and young adults between the ages of 10 and 29 years in the USA. If we assume that just 10% of these children and young adults (i.e., 8,000,000) try such "cosmetic" contact lenses and only 5% have a problem, this means that 40,000 children and young adults may suffer eye infections, corneal abrasions and possible permanent vision loss because of the flawed FDA ruling.
One has to wonder if politics came to play in having the FDA issue such an ill conceived notice? Did a congressperson, after generous donations from industry, pressure the FDA to reclassify decorative contact lenses as cosmetic? Is money more important than our children's eyes? One thing is clear however, the FDA has failed to safeguard the public from dangerous cosmetic contact lenses.
However, all is not lost. If your child has a serious eye problem as a result of such cosmetic contact lenses, the FDA would like to hear from you. Contact MedWatch, the FDA's voluntary reporting program, by calling 1-800-332-1088. if your child suffers loss of sight because of such lenses. But one has to wonder... is anybody listening?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has issued a warning about cosmetic contact lenses.
"Report Cites Risks Associated With Over-the-Counter Cosmetic Contact Lenses
SAN FRANCISCOOne patient
needed a corneal transplant and another is legally blind after wearing over-the-counter
cosmetic contact lenses. These are two of the patients discussed in a report published in
the October issue of Eye & Contact Lens,
the clinical journal of the Contact Lens Association of Ophthalmologists.
All decorative contact lens are not illegal, however, all contact lenses, whether corrective or decorative, need to be fitted and monitored by an eye care professional. Editor-in-chief of Eye & Contact Lens, H. Dwight Cavanagh, MD, Ph.D., F.A.C.S., said, This report underscores the need to continue to view contact lenses as medical devices. They need to be fitted and prescribed by licensed health care professionals. As seen in this report, the unregulated sale of contact lenses represents a grave danger to the public.
Many people mistakenly think decorative contact lenses are just like sunglasses. If youre not wearing the lenses to correct refractive errors, you dont need a prescription. This is a dangerous misconception, said one of the reports authors, Thomas L. Steinemann, MD, of the MetroHealth Medical Center Eye Clinic in Cleveland and associate professor of ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve Universitys Department of Ophthalmology. People who wear lenses purchased from unlicensed vendors have been given no instructions and often practice risky behavior. They dont clean or disinfect the lenses. They sleep in them. They swim in them. The even swap them with their friends.
Six patients, from 14 to 32 years of age, are discussed in the observational case report. The patients, five females and one male, experienced vision-threatening problems after wearing contact lenses purchased from unlicensed vendors, including gas stations, beauty salons, video stores, corner stores and flea markets. They did not receive any instructions on how to properly care for or wear the contact lenses. And all of them were sold individual contact lenses without a prescription, an examination or a fitting by an eye care professional such as an ophthalmologist. According to the case report:
∑ One 14-year-old patient nearly lost her eye after contracting a serious bacterial infection. She was hospitalized for four days and was left with a corneal scar that affected her vision. The patient later required a corneal transplant, and will need regular observation and treatment for the rest of her life.
∑ After falling asleep with her contact lenses still on, a 19-year-old woman awoke to burning and light sensitivity in both eyes. She said she had been buying the contact lenses from open-boxed sets without a prescription for the past five years and had worn contact lenses continuously for up to five months on previous occasions.
∑ Another 19- year-old-woman, who complained of light sensitivity and burning in her right eye, said she purchased her over-the-counter contact lenses from gas stations, hair salons and corner stores for years, along with her friends, teenage sisters and mother.
∑ A 30-year-old woman continued to wear her contact lenses, despite experiencing worsening symptoms over a two-week period that included right eye pain, tearing, light sensitivity and redness. In an attempt to relieve the redness and lubricate the lenses she used over-the-counter eye drops before finally seeking medical treatment.
∑ A 32-year-old man scratched his cornea while trying to remove costume contact lenses. He had developed painful inflammation from a lens that did not fit. He had purchased the contact lenses for Halloween a week earlier at a flea market. This required multiple treatments over several weeks.
∑ A 24-year-old woman became legally blind from corneal scarring in one eye, after she developed conjunctivitis (pink eye) and was treated for herpes simplex and bacterial keratitis. She reported wearing disposable contact lenses for approximately six months, often sleeping in them.
The report says the demand for decorative contact lenses continues to increase, particularly among teenage girls and young women, with consumers spending approximately $180 million on them so far. Colored contact lenses are one of the fastest growing segments in the contact lens market. Because of the growing market, the report states: American young people remain at risk as a major target of the unauthorized sale of decorative contact lenses.
Problems that may result from this risky behavior include corneal abrasions, epithelial keratitis, infectious ulcers and the blinding Acanthamoeba organism. Although no cases have been documented, the report also suggests HIV transmission is a potential risk among those who exchange their contact lenses with others."
NEED WE SAY MORE? !!!!
A major breakthrough has been accomplished in the use of genes to restore sight in a dog model of a retinal degeneration, called Lebers Congenital Amourosis (LCA).
In LCA, an infant is born blind due to a retinal degeneration that affects both day and night vision. Infants with LCA typically have very little vision at birth, have nystagmus ("wondering eyes") and have a tendency to rub their eyes excessively (oculo-digital sign). At least in some cases of LCA, the retinal degeneration is due to a mutation in gene RPE65 (the defective gene is called RPE65-/-). Once one infant is born with LCA, the same parents have a 25% chance of having another affected child. There is no known treatment for LCA and the infant with LCA faces a life with very little, if any, vision.
In the breakthrough research, collaborating researchers from a number of universities used dogs with a similar retinal degeneration as LCA and, through the marvels of gene therapy, were able to insert correct copies of RPE65 into cells that contained the defective gene RPE65-/-. The researchers injected the correct RPE65 gene (using a vector called adeno-associated virus) between the retina and another layer of cells critical for vision called the RPE (Retinal Pigment Epithelium). The retina is that part of the eye that contains the cone and rod photoreceptors needed for day vision and night vision, respectively. The RPE cells provide nurishment, including vitamin A, to the photoreceptors.
Ten months after the initial gene therapy, the treated dogs were found to have electroretinogram (ERG) or retinal electrical responses that appeared normal. The treated dogs also had pupil responses to light and had molecular findings indicating that the injected, corrected RPE65 cells were present. Most importantly, after gene therapy the treated dogs were able to use the treated eyes for sight! For example, the treated eyes could be used to follow one of the researchers walk across the room while the untreated eyes of the same dogs did not elicit a following response.
In contrast, when the same corrected gene RPE65 was injected into the gel part of the eye, called the vitreous, the gene therapy had, as expected, no change in vision, ERG or other measures. This latter condition is called a "control condition", commonly used in research.
The significance of this gene therapy breakthrough cannot be overstated. While it will take several years of additional testing and experimentation in such animal models to ensure safety for human experimentation and treatment, the horizon looks promising. Such gene therapy could eventually be used to treat patients with LCA and possibly other genetic eye diseases such as Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), the latter affects 1 in every 3600 people.
The Ohio LIONS Eye Research Foundation funds gene research in a number of eye diseases, including diseases of the cornea, retina and optic nerve. Gene research is being undertaken and funded at numerous sites including Case Western Reserve University, University of Cincinnatti and Medical College of Ohio in Toledo. Many predict that within 10 years or so that there will be gene therapies for a host of eye diseases that cause blindness. With your help, the Ohio LIONS Eye Research Foundation will continue to provide seed money for such research your vision and ours may depend upon it.
Acland et al. Gene Therapy restores vision in a canine model of childhood blindness. Nature Genetics, vol 28, p92 95, May, 2001.