February is National Age-related Macular Degeneration/Low Vision Awareness Month

Eye Exam USC Roski Eye InstituteLow vision can affect one or both eyes and be caused by aging, birth defects, injury or complications from disease. Those with vision loss suffer a significantly degraded quality of life. People generally take their vision for granted, such as the ability to drive the kids to school, read a favorite book or watch the grandchildren laugh and play. With a low vision diagnosis, patients often lose their ability to perform everyday activities. These devastating effects motivate USC Eye Institute researchers to find treatments or cures for people who are visually impaired. Currently, low vision is treated with prescription eyewear, such as magnifiers or filters and others forms of assistive technology. Many patients are offered counseling or training to improve their general quality of life.

USC Roski Eye Institute is making advancements in low vision research

The USC Roski Eye institute is committed to enhancing the lives of those diagnosed with low vision. Our physicians and residents are educated in the diagnosis and treatment of low vision. Gloria Chiu, OD, FAAO, FSLS, chief optometrist at the USC Roski Eye Institute, recently helped organize a special low vision symposium for USC Roski Eye Institute residents. Vision rehabilitation specialists from both the Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University and the College of Optometry at Western University were invited to discuss the latest in low vision treatments. Numerous medical device suppliers also demonstrated the newest technological advances in vision rehabilitation devices.

Researchers at the USC Roski Eye Institute have also dedicated their efforts to veterans with traumatic brain injury (TBI) who suffer visual dysfunction. James Weiland, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering, and his team created a prototype wearable visual aid (WVA), which is a smartphone-based system that contains complex visual algorithms, a head-mounted camera and audio aid. A patient equipped with this device is able to select an object using a smartphone controller, which is then correctly identified through the camera input. Upon identification, the assistive technology guides the patient in grasping the object using voice commands. Once optimized, the WVA can have great impact on the lives of the visually impaired, helping veterans and the general population.

Making a difference in the fight against AMD

Researchers at the USC Roski Eye Institute have made great strides in the treatment of vision loss caused by devastating diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Mark S. Humayun, MD, PhD, and David R. Hinton, MD, received nearly $19 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to develop a stem cell-based treatment for AMD. AMD affects over 1.75 million people age 50 and older in the United States. The leading cause of blindness and vision loss among the elderly, AMD is a central retinal disease that impacts the area the eye that helps process images, leading to catastrophic vision loss. It targets central vision, resulting in the inability to read, recognize faces or even drive. The disease causes a loss of crucial retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells, which are essential to the survival of photoreceptors (light sensitive cells). To restore those RPE cells, the USC Roski Eye Institute team developed a unique procedure to grow thin sheets of stem cell-derived cells to be surgically implanted in the eye, replacing diseased sheets and restoring photoreceptors needed for vision. Phase 1 human clinical trials are set to commence in less than one year.

For more information on low vision and AMD or any other eye related condition, click here for the National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP) website.

by Debbie Mitra

Scroll Up To Top
View Full Desktop Version