Sunday, December 10, 2006

Why Is Cornea Free of Blood Vessels?

Scientists at Harvard University's Department of Ophthalmology's Schepens Eye Research Institute and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, say they are the first to learn why the cornea, the clear window of the eye, is free of blood vessels--a unique phenomenon that makes vision possible. The key, indicate the researchers, is the unexpected presence of large amounts of the protein VEGFR-3 (vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3) on the top epithelial layer of normal healthy corneas.

According to the most recent findings, VEGFR-3 halts angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) by acting as a "sink" to bind or neutralize the growth factors sent by the body to stimulate the spread of blood vessels. The cornea long has been known to have the remarkable and unusual property of not having blood vessels, but the exact reasons for this had remained unknown.

These results not only serve to solve a profound scientific mystery, but hold great promise for preventing and curing blinding eye disease and illnesses such as cancer, in which blood vessels grow abnormally and uncontrollably, since this phenomenon, normally present in the cornea, can be used therapeutically in other tissues.

"This is a very significant discovery," emphasizes Reza Dana, an associate professor at Harvard University Medical School and the senior author and principal investigator of the study. "A clear cornea is essential for vision. Without the ability to maintain a blood-vessel-free cornea, our vision would be significantly impaired or nonexistant."

The cornea, one of only two tissues in the body that actively keep themselves vessel-free (the other is cartilage), is the thin transparent tissue that covers the front of the eye. It is the clarity of the cornea that allows light to pass onto the retina and from there to the brain for interpretation. When the cornea is clouded by injury, infection, or abnormal blood vessel growth, vision severely is impaired, if not destroyed.

Scientists have been wrestling with the "clarity" puzzle for many decades. While some previous studies have revealed small clues, none have pointed to one major mechanism, until now.

Source: USA Today Magazine

Monday, December 04, 2006

Seeing a Reason to Support a Car Show

• IF I COULDN'T SEE, I DON'T think I could write these words. It would be difficult to read them, too.

If I couldn't see the things that give me the greatest joy — my family, my friends, my cars, my life — I just don't know how I'd survive.

I was thinking about this the other day gazing upon ladies in stylish hats and men wearing a mix of lust and lost-love emotion. They stood on the lawn of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Estate in tony Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, here to enjoy the many fine and glorious cars assembled for the EyesOn Design car show. They were here to take in the beauty, to reminisce and, just maybe, add something to their "gotta have" wish list.

Few of these people realized that with their participation — the money they spent on tickets and commemorative posters and such — they would help the blind see.

That's because the EyesOn Design car show, a mainstay for the area and within the collector community, is not just a wonderful event, but it is the carrot dangled to bring 40 world-renowned doctors, scientists and researchers from nine countries to Detroit's doorstep. They come to attend a congress devoted to the goal of creating artificial vision through the development of a microchip.

EyesOn Design is the single largest fundraiser for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, and the conference is one reason for that organization's being. It's good that T understand about car shows because the conference topics are clearly beyond me; its subjects include such lighthearted cocktail banter as "bio-hybrid visual prosthesis research" and "high-resolution epiretinal stimulation of mammalian ganglion cells." Sheesh.

Perhaps I should not have been surprised to know the EyesOn show, while not as famous as a Pebble Beach, has an international following. And not just by the junketeering eye docs. This is a show, after all, held on the grounds of an auto baron's estate. That alone has to be worth a few hundred at the gate.

It's a pity that EyesOn hasn't gathered greater U.S. appeal, though CM, Nissan and Bridgestone, along with others, lend their support. And no, it is not a "true" show of elegance where cars are judged for authenticity and restoration to within an inch of their brass grommets.

EyesOn just has the admirable goal [something many other shows around the country also aim to do — be socially responsible first, entertaining second) of wanting to make this a world in which people can see. As an able-bodied car guy, that's more than enough reason to get my money.

By Dutch Mandel, AutoWeek