Focal Point: Issue 3

Issue 3

Fall 2015
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To the Point

It’s amazing how fast the time flies and here we are at the start of autumn 2015.

We are sending our eye physician newsletter, The Focal Point, both in print and to the email contact you have identified for your office. 

Let me know what version you prefer as some offices like one or the other; and others prefer both (one for the waiting room area and the other to send to networks.)

Please look for each of these versions and send your feedback to

Also, it would be great if you let us know if the articles we are selecting for you are interesting and provide information you may not have seen elsewhere.

Lastly, I want to make sure you are aware of the “White Cane Day” open houses on October 15th at our Seattle, Tacoma, Lacey, and Vancouver offices. October is Disability and Employment Awareness month and our “White Cane Day” is part of this national engagement. You can find more information at on our website.

I hope everyone is looking forward to Fall and the upcoming holiday seasons.

~ Mark
 Program and Partnership Development


“If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Thomas Alva Edison

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Stem Cells from Teeth Could Repair Eyes

From: University of Pittsburgh (via

Stem cells from the dental pulp of wisdom teeth can be coaxed to turn into cells of the eye’s cornea.

Researchers say this could one day be used to repair corneal scarring due to infection or injury. This could also be a new source of corneal transplant tissue made from the patient’s own cells.

Corneal blindness, which affects millions of people worldwide, is typically treated with transplants of donor corneas, says senior investigator James Funderburgh, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

“Shortages of donor corneas and rejection of donor tissue do occur, which can result in permanent vision loss,” Funderburgh says. “Our work is promising because using the patient’s own cells for treatment could help us avoid these problems.”

Experiments showed that stem cells of the dental pulp, obtained from routine human third molar, or wisdom tooth, could be turned into corneal stromal cells called keratocytes, which have the same embryonic origin.

The researchers injected the engineered keratocytes into the corneas of healthy mice, where they integrated without signs of rejection. They also used the cells to develop constructs of corneal stroma akin to natural tissue.

“Other research has shown that dental pulp stem cells can be used to make neural, bone, and other cells,” says lead author Fatima Syed-Picard, also of the university’s ophthalmology department. “They have great potential for use in regenerative therapies.”

In future work, the researchers will assess whether the technique can correct corneal scarring in an animal model.

The journal STEM CELLS Translational Medicine published the results The National Institutes of Health grants, Research to Prevent Blindness, and the Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh funded the work.

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ADA 25th Anniversary Celebration

Hundreds of disability advocates gathered in Seattle’s Westlake Park to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act on July 25, 2015.

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Students Develop Facial Recognition Cane

From: Birmingham City University

A revolutionary ‘smart’ cane enabling blind people to instantly identify friends and family could be available soon, thanks to students at Birmingham City University in England.

The ‘XploR’ mobility cane, being developed by ICT students Steve Adigbo, Waheed Rafiq and Richard Howlett, uses smart-phone technology to recognise familiar faces from up to 10 metres away. The cane also features GPS functionality to aid navigation.

The device has added importance for one of its developers, Steve Adigbo, whose grandfather is blind. Steve said: “My grandfather is blind and I know how useful this device could be for him. The smart cane incorporates facial recognition technology to alert the user when they are approaching a relative or friend. There’s nothing else out there like this at the moment.”

The Birmingham City University team have already presented the XploR cane to medical and science professionals in Luxembourg and France, and plan to visit organizations in Germany later this year.

The students have designed the XploR cane to detect faces up to 10 metres away, vibrating when detecting a recognizable individual from a bank of images stored on an internal SD memory card. The device will guide users towards friends and family members using an ear piece and audio guidance, with the information being relayed through blue-tooth technology.

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FDA allows marketing of new device to help the blind process visual signals via their tongues


The Food and Drug Administration recently allowed marketing of a new device that when used along with other assistive devices, like a cane or guide dog, can help orient people who are blind by helping them process visual images with their tongues.

The BrainPort V100 is a battery-powered device that includes a video camera mounted on a pair of glasses and a small, flat intra-oral device containing a series of electrodes that the user holds against their tongue. Software converts the image captured by the video camera in to electrical signals that are then sent to the intra-oral device and perceived as vibrations or tingling on the user’s tongue. With training and experience, the user learns to interpret the signals to determine the location, position, size, and shape of objects, and to determine if objects are moving or stationary.

“Medical device innovations like this have the potential to help millions of people,” said William Maisel, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for science and chief scientist in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “It is important we continue advancing device technology to help blind Americans live better, more independent lives.”

According to the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute (NEI), in 2010 more than 1.2 million people in the United States were blind. NEI projects that number of Americans who are blind will rise to 2.1 million by 2030 and 4.1 million by 2050.

The FDA reviewed the data for the BrainPortV100 through the de novo premarket review pathway, a regulatory pathway for some low- to moderate-risk medical devices that are not substantially equivalent to an already legally-marketed device.

Clinical data supporting the safety and effectiveness of the BrainPort V100 included several assessments, such as object recognition and word identification, as well as oral health exams to determine risks associated with holding the intra-oral device in the mouth. Studies showed that 69 percent of the 74 subjects who completed one year of training with the device were successful at the object recognition test. Some patients reported burning, stinging or metallic taste associated with the intra-oral device. There were no serious device-related adverse events.

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Keratitis responsible for nearly one million US doctor visits

CDC experts found that Americans made an estimated 930,000 visits to doctor’s offices and outpatient clinics.

  • 58,000 emergency room visits annually due to eye infections.
  • Women were slightly more likely to be affected than men, accounting for 63% of office visits and about 55% of emergency room visits.
  • The condition was spread relatively evenly across age groups.
  • Keratitis related visits result in $175 million in direct health care costs.
  • Most office visits linked to poor contact lens habits and infections.

Source: US Centers for Disease Control

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