New stem cell therapy could cure blindness

May 21, 2016 by  
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Upwards of 30 million people on the planet suffer from Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which causes pain and a black spot in the center of the patient’s vision that grows into eventual blindness. Recently, studies conducted at University College London reveal a possible cure for the first time in history. Professor Pete Coffey has been working to develop a treatment using a patient’s own stem cells for the past eight years , and the first patient to receive the treatment—just last August—is showing promising results. Coffey looked to stem cells to replace the layer of cells damaged by the progressive disease. AMD destroys the eye’s Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE), causing patients to experience a black spot in their vision which expands outward and leads to complete blindness . AMD sufferers also lose the ability to read and recognize familiar faces, altering their lives forever. The only existing treatments for AMD simply manage the discomfort associated with the disease, but there have been no breakthroughs for potential cures until now. Related: World’s first 3D-printed retinal cells could help cure blindness A 60-year-old woman with a severe form of AMD was Coffey’s first guinea pig. On August 11, 2015, surgeons at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London implanted stem cells that had been cultivated as RPE cells, hoping the new additions would step in and repair the degeneration. Six months after the procedure, Coffey was still hesitant to call the procedure  a win, despite improvements. “We are assessing her vision — we need more information to make conclusions,” said Coffey, who hopes patients can get their lives back. “Recovery is possible… there is a window when you can put the cells in and recover the patient’s vision. I would hope they can recognize their families again.” Via CNN Images via Sam Bald/Flickr and Wikipedia

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New stem cell therapy could cure blindness

16-year-old wins Marvel’s STEM challenge with seeing eye robot

May 20, 2016 by  
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Seeing eye dogs make great companions for the visually impaired, but what if there was one that didn’t need to be fed or cleaned up after? Sixteen-year-old Maia Dua created one: a seeing eye robot  that can do everything a dog can, without the expensive and lengthy training. Her invention beat out a thousand other entries to win Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War — Girls Performing the Future Challenge . The California high school student was inspired to create a robotic aid for the visually impaired after she heard about the high cost of raising and training seeing eye dogs . Compared to the $50,000 expense of breeding and training seeing eye dogs, and then connecting them with visually impaired owners, Dua’s invention costs just $600. She built her robot in four days, a tiny fraction of the time it takes to train a companion animal . Related: Teen wins $100,000 for new water purification system to remove Everglades pollutants The wheeled robot has a long handle and looks a bit like those non-electric carpet sweepers used at movie theaters. The device is equipped with a series of sensors that detect nearing objects and beeps to alert the user. The seeing eye robot can’t replace a trained animal companion, as it lacks the ability to scope out a situation and make decisions (such as at a crosswalk). However, in simple surroundings, the robot can give a hardworking dog a much needed break. The design competition, open only to girls aged 15 to 18 enrolled in 10th to 12th grades, awarded each participant with a $500 savings account from sponsor Synchrony Bank. Dua, the grand prize winner, won an internship at Marvel Studios. Although the contest backers advertised the challenge as a means to empower girls in STEM fields, critics say Marvel (a Disney-owned company) would have had a greater impact by simply putting more female characters in their movies. Via Yahoo Images via Marvel Studios and KCRA

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16-year-old wins Marvel’s STEM challenge with seeing eye robot

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