Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, especially in developed countries, and there is currently no known treatment or cure or for the vast majority of AMD patients. New research published in BioMed Central's open access journal Genome Medicine has identified genes whose expression levels can identify people with AMD, as well as tell apart AMD subtypes. It is estimated that 6.5% of people over age 40 in the US currently have AMD. There is an inheritable genetic risk factor but risk is also increased for smokers and with exposure to UV light. Genome-wide studies have indicated that genes involved in the innate immune system and fat metabolism are involved in this disease. However none of these prior studies examined gene expression differences between AMD and normal eyes.
A gene known to control lens development in mice and humans is also crucial for the development of neurons responsible for mechanosensory function, as neurobiologists of the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch have now discovered. They found that in mice in which they had removed the c-Maf gene in the nerve cells, touch sensation is impaired. This similarly applies to human carriers of a mutant c-Maf gene. People with such a mutation suffer at a young age from cataracts, a clouding of the lens which typically affects the elderly. The patients, as demonstrated by Professor Carmen Birchmeier and Dr. Hagen Wende in collaboration with Professor Gary Lewin and Dr. Stefan Lechner, have difficulty holding objects such as a sheet of paper as a consequence of this mutation.
Imagine if smartphone and tablet users could text a note under the table during a meeting without anyone being the wiser. Mobile gadget users might also be enabled to text while walking, watching TV or socializing without taking their eyes off what they're doing. Georgia Tech researchers have built a prototype app for touch-screen mobile devices that is vying to be a complete solution for texting without the need to look at a mobile gadget's screen. "Research has shown that chorded, or gesture-based, texting is a viable solution for eyes-free written communication in the future, making obsolete the need for users to look at their devices while inputting text on them, " said Mario Romero, Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Interactive Computing (IC) and the project's principal investigator.
How we perceive the world tells us a lot about how the brain processes sensory information. At the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Vancouver, McMaster University psychologist Daphne Maurer reported on how vision develops in individuals born with cataracts in both eyes. Although such persons have their vision "corrected" by surgery and contact lenses, Maurer's study shows that they experience specific visual processing deficiencies into adulthood. But the studies reveal good news as well. Some of these effects can be reversed if the individual follows a short program of video gaming. "After playing an action video game for just 40 hours over four weeks, the patients were better at seeing small print, the direction of moving dots, and the identity of faces.
Actor of film and stage, Dame Judi Dench, now filming her seventh James Bond film, Skyfall, where she plays 007's MI5 boss M, has given a moving interview where she talks about her determination to beat macular degeneration, an eye condition that is the leading cause of blindness in the western world. The interview, with UK's Daily Mirror, was published on Saturday. Dame Judi says she hopes the injections she has received will stop the progressive decline. Macular degeneration, often called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), is an eye disorder associated with aging where people's vision becomes less sharp and they gradually lose central vision. Dame Judi says her sight is now so bad she can't read scripts, she has to rely on friends and family to help her learn her lines. AMD affects the macula, the middle part of the retina that allows the eye to see fine details.