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$17M Grant to Support Research Linking Eye Health, Alzheimer’s

‘The eyes provide a lens to understand the health of the brain,’ says one researcher.

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(Press Release) In pursuit of changing the course of Alzheimer’s, support is growing to explore new avenues that might unlock mysteries of this brain disease. This includes investigating the link between aging eyes and aging brains.

Cecilia Lee, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the University of Washington School of Medicine, recently received a $17.2 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to research eye diseases’ associations with Alzheimer’s.

“The eyes provide a lens to understand the health of the brain,” she said.

Lee was lead author of a 2018 study that found a significant link between Alzheimer’s disease and three degenerative eye diseases: age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

Alzheimer’s is complicated and expensive to diagnose. Lee hopes to identify novel eye-related biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease that could lead to much easier and cheaper diagnostics to pinpoint people at risk of developing dementia due to Alzheimer’s, and perhaps expedite future treatments.

The research team comprises a large group of UW and Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute investigators with world-renowned expertise in dementia, neuropsychology, neuroimaging, ophthalmic imaging, big data, and artificial intelligence. They include Eric B. Larson, senior investigator and former vice president for research and healthcare innovation at Kaiser, and, from the UW: Paul Crane, professor of medicine, C. Dirk Keene, associate professor of pathology, Ruikang Wang, professor of bioengineering, and Aaron Lee, assistant professor of ophthalmology.

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In 1994, while at the University of Washington, Larson started the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study, a prospective repository of health information of Kaiser Permanente Washington patients age 65 and over; it provides data for many studies, including this one. The ACT database also includes a rare autopsy cohort so researchers can see what happened to the brains of consenting participants after they die. The team will partner with the Laboratory on Neuro Imaging at the University of Southern California to make the ophthalmic imaging data from this project available to researchers around the world.

“This project will develop unique community-based and home-based data about the health of eyes in older adults, which has never been studied to this extent before,” said Crane. “It will be the largest such collection of data from any project anywhere, which is very exciting.”

Keene said the study is important because linking disease processes in the eye and the brain provides a window not only for diagnosis but also to understand mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease development and progression.

“This will hopefully result in early intervention and prevention of neurodegeneration,” he said.

Lee said the grant is an endorsement of the ACT team’s work and of the National Institute on Aging’s investment in Alzheimer’s research involving the eye. As Larson said, the ACT team has had longstanding interest in the relationship of sensory functions with Alzheimer’s, but now they have much more sophistication and promise to understand it.

Credit: UW Medicine

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LASIK Should Be Banned, Says FDA Adviser

He regrets voting to approve the treatment.

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A retired U.S. Food and Drug Administration adviser says LASIK eye surgery should be removed from the market.

Morris Waxler voted to approve to treatment, but now wishes he hadn’t, CBS News reports. He has re-examined the data.

“Essentially we ignored the data on vision distortions that persisted for years,” he told CBS.

His analysis suggests that 10 percent to 30 percent of patients experience complications. He asked the FDA in 2011 to issue a voluntary recall of the treatment, but the FDA declined to do so.

The FDA recently told CBS that it “has not found any new safety concerns associated with LASIK devices.”

CBS News quoted several patients saying they’d been harmed by LASIK.

Abraham Rutner, for example, said that he had double vision and that “around the lights [was] like having starbursts.” He notes, however, that his vision is improved by approximately 90 percent.

Experts say pre-surgical screening is crucial to avoiding LASIK complications.

The key lies in “knowing who to operate on and who not to operate on and there are people who really should not have this procedure,” Dr. Jules Winokur told CBS News.

The FDA has issued an advisory on risks and how to find find the right doctor for LASIK.

Read more at CBS News

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Video: Adorable Cat Melts Hearts By Trying on Eyewear for Children

Kids see that ‘if she can wear hers, they can wear them too.’

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A rescue cat in Pennsylvania is getting attention for her role in making children feel comfortable with their eyeglasses.

Truffles happily wears brightly colored frames to set a good example for the young patients of A Child’s Eyes in Mechanicsburg, the Daily Mail reports.

“If a child is feeling a bit nervous I ask Truffles if she wants to show them her glasses,” says Danielle Crull, owner of the business. “When they see Truffles wearing them it’s a really good thing and shows that if she can wear hers, they can wear them too.”

A video of the cat trying on eyewear has been viewed millions of times.

Watch the video:

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Several Eyecare Drugs in Short Supply, FDA Says

They include staple items.

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Thirteen ophthalmic drugs or products are currently in a state of shortage, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

They include solutions, ointments, emulsions, suspensions and injections, the American Optometric Association reports. Another four ophthalmic products were recently discontinued altogether.

The FDA claims in a new report that older, lower-cost drugs face supply troubles far more often than brand-name options, AOA reports. Among the ophthalmic drugs or products in shortage are staple items such as fluorescein strips and solutionsdilation dropsglaucoma medicationsantibiotics and antivirals.

According to AOA:

Published Oct. 29 by an FDA-convened inter-agency Drug Shortages Task Force, the report, “Drug Shortages: Root Causes and Potential Solutions,” analyzed 163 drugs that went into shortage from 2013 to 2017 and found the majority were “financially unattractive drugs” for manufacturers. Of the 163 drugs, 109 (67%) had generic versions on the market and had a median time since first approval of nearly 35 years. So many years off patent, these drugs sold for a median per unit price of only $8.73, the FDA notes.

AOA Chief Public Health Officer Michael Duenas, OD, said, “A doctor of optometry, in their public health role, should monitor services and needed supplies to determine that they are useful and accessible to all individuals within their community who may need that particular service or supply. Doctors of optometry are encouraged to report deficiencies to the AOA and agencies overseeing shortages, such as FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) Drug Shortage Program at drugshortages@fda.hhs.gov.”

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