US researcher receives $4.8m grant for stem-cell-based retina therapy

Dr Magdalene Seiler, PhD, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, Irvine, has received a $US4.8 million grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to continue developing a stem cell-based therapy for retinitis pigmentosa.

The therapy may also be applicable to macular degeneration.

Dr Seiler said: “Our goal is a treatment based on transplanting sheets of stem-cell derived retina, called retina organoids, to the back of the eye.”

Since 1995, Dr Seiler and her team have pursued promising research into the development and use of retinal sheet transplantation, using a unique patented implantation instrument and procedure that has demonstrated improvement in visual responses in four different retinal degeneration models.

“The aim is to replace damaged photoreceptors with the hope of re-establishing neural circuitry within the eye,” Dr Seiler said.


By | July 14th, 2018|Research|

Ulysses comments …


Grateful thanks

What a relief for the whole world as the 12 boys and their football coach trapped in a cave in Thailand were all eventually brought out by a team of brave people. Once the last of them came out, you could almost hear the whole world breathe a huge sigh of relief.

It was a magnificent effort by so many, none of whom stood to gain anything from saving the lives of the 13 young people.

It showed human beings at their best.



Scanning through some write-ups on forthcoming trade fairs, my eye caught sight of a word that I had never associated with what lay in store for visitors to such an event.

The word was ‘inspire’, used in the write-up to describe what will apparently happen to visitors when they turn up.

Curious, I looked up a dictionary or two, to find synonyms for ‘inspire’ include: encourage, hearten, uplift, stir, rouse, stimulate, electrify, exhilarate, excite, motivate, cause, incline, persuade, influence, move, spur on, goad, energize, galvanize, incite, and impel.

And that’s before the drinks start to flow after a hard day’s visiting

By | July 14th, 2018|Comment|

DIY AMD checks

A team from Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Kiel, and Medical Laser Center in Lübeck, Germany, has developed a potential hand-held OCT device for home-monitoring of patients with retinal disease, including aged macular degeneration.

It’s early days yet, and the developers have had to make some compromises on image quality – the result is off-axis full-field time-domain OCT focused on reducing the scan area to 3 x 3 mm and using a full-field system which illuminates the whole field.

The 3 x 3 images provide good sensitivity and specificity for monitoring sub-retinal and intraretinal fluid volume, and the full-field approach increases visual quality.

The design is simple, needing only a standard light source – rather than swept-source – and a regular, low-cost USB camera.

Though the team is still in the research phase, they have tested their device – alongside spectral-domain (SD)-OCT – in 10 patients with retinal disease (including AMD and retinal vein occlusion), and have shown that it can acquire clinically-useful images.

The team says that even though the image quality is not quite as good as clinical OCT systems, the sub-retinal fluid does demark very well and the need for re-treatment is apparent.

It is planned to continue developing the device and to study its imaging capabilities in more patients by asking clinicians to grade both

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By | July 1st, 2018|Research|

Novartis is planning to spin off Alcon into a separately traded stand-alone company

The split, which is subject to general market conditions, tax rulings, shareholder approval and board of directors endorsement, will allow both companies to “focus fully on their respective growth strategies,” according to a Novartis press release.

The ophthalmology pharmaceuticals business will continue to be part of Novartis, while Alcon will focus on surgical and vision care.

In addition, Novartis said it will initiate a share buyback of up to $5 billion by the end of 2019.

“Our strategic review examined all options for Alcon ranging from retention, sale, IPO to spinoff. The review concluded that a spinoff would be in the best interests of Novartis shareholders, and the board of directors intends to seek shareholder approval for a spinoff at the 2019 annual general meeting,” Novartis chairman Joerg Reinhardt said in the release.

Mike Ball will become chairman-designate of Alcon, while David Endicott will be promoted to Alcon CEO, according to the release. Both appointments will become effective on 1 July.

“This promises to be the beginning of an exciting new chapter for everyone associated with Alcon,” Mr Ball said in the release. “The planned spinoff will be key to strengthening our leadership in the large, attractive and growing global eye-care-devices market.”

If all approvals are secured, the spinoff would be completed in the first half of 2019. The company would

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By | July 1st, 2018|Business|

Amazon secures foothold in US pharmacy retailing

Amazon has announced it is buying online retail pharmaceutical retailer PillPack for an undisclosed price.

PillPack has a staff of 1,000 and is not a major player in the US pharmacy industry, bringing in about $US100 million in revenue in 2017, according to the company.

The company, which started in 2013, distributes pills in easy-to-use packages designed for consumers with chronic conditions and multiple prescriptions. It sorts prescriptions by the dose and includes a label with a picture of each pill and directions on how it should be taken.

Anxiety over what Amazon might do in health care has unsettled the industry, with the company’s interest in drugs considered a factor in a wave of recently proposed mergers, including CVS’s acquisition of Aetna and a union between the health insurer Cigna and Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefit manager.

Amazon’s entry could make it easier for some of those deals to get approval from regulators, by adding a new competitor.

When Amazon announced on 28 June that it was buying PillPack, the news immediately shook the industry. Shares of Walgreens and Rite Aid tumbled more than 9 per cent, while CVS Health dropped 6.6 per cent.

Even as Americans have shifted their buying habits online, prescription drugs have remained a stubbornly bricks-and-mortar purchase. About 90 per cent of all

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By | July 1st, 2018|Business|

50% of US millennials believe online vision tests are OK

A new study by Transitions Optical in the United States has revealed that while American employees are very interested in getting insurance coverage for eye examinations, many are confusing comprehensive eye exams with online vision tests.

The study shows 50 per cent of millennials and 54 per cent of Gen Z are likely to incorrectly believe that online tests are a suitable replacement for in-office eye exams.

The research, part of Transitions’ ‘Employee Perceptions of Vision Benefits’ survey, found that six in 10 employees would be willing to have their eyes checked more often if their employer offered ‘online eye exam’ coverage. However, it also revealed that four in 10 employees incorrectly believe that “online eye exams that provide glasses or contact lens prescriptions are a suitable replacement for in-office eye exams.”

“Many people believe that an eye exam is just about getting the right glasses or contacts to help them see better, but it’s much more than that,” Dr Brian Chou, O.D., an optometrist in San Diego, is quoted by Eyecare Business in its report on the study results.

The study also points to gaps in education about what online tests are. Older employees are less likely to understand the concept of online tests, but younger ones (millennials and Gen Z) are more

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By | July 1st, 2018|Overseas|