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Research Breakthrough For the Leading Cause of Blindness



|| Thursday: February 20: 2020: Cardiff University News || ά. Researchers have identified a new protein, linked to Age-related Macular Degeneration:AMD, that could offer new hope for the diagnosis and treatment of the disease, which affects more than 01.5 million people in the UK alone. The research team, made up of scientists from Cardiff University, Queen Mary University of London, the University of Manchester, and Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, found significantly higher levels of a protein, called, factor H-related protein four:FHR-4 in the blood of AMD patients.

Further investigation, using eye tissue, donated for medical research, showed the presence of the FHR-four protein within the macula, the specific region of the eye, affected by the disease. The results of the Study, published in Nature Communications, open up new routes for the early diagnosis, by measuring FHR-four levels in the blood and suggests therapies, targeting this protein could provide promising future treatment options for the disease.

Professor Paul Morgan, an expert in Complement Biology at Cardiff University and a leader in the development of the antibodies and assays, that underpinned this work, said, ‘’The collaboration between experts in Complement Biology, eye disease and Genetics across Europe has enabled the accumulation of a robust body of evidence, that genetically dictated FHR-four levels in plasma are an important predictor of risk of developing AMD.

‘The unique antibodies and assays we have developed have potential not only for contributing to risk prediction but, also, to new ways of treating this common and devastating disease.

FHR-four regulates the complement system, part of the immune system, which plays a critical role in inflammation and the body’s defence against infection. Previous studies have linked the complement system to AMD, showing that genetically-inherited faults in key complement proteins are strong risk factors for the condition.

In this Study, the researchers used a genetic technique, known as a genome-wide association study, to identify specific changes in the genome related to the increased levels of FHR-four found in AMD patients.

They found higher blood FHR-four levels were associated with changes to genes that code for proteins belonging to the factor H family, which clustered together within a specific region of the genome. The identified genetic changes, also, overlapped with genetic variants first found to increase the risk of AMD over 20 years ago.

Together, the findings suggest that inherited genetic changes can lead to higher blood FHR-four levels, which results in uncontrolled activation of the complement system within the eye and drive disease. Blood levels of FHR-four were measured in 484 patients and 522 age-matched control samples, using two independent, established collections of AMD patient data.

There are two main types of AMD: Wet AMD and Dry AMD. While some treatment options exist for Wet AMD, there is currently no available treatment for Dry AMD. The authors said that the Study represented a step change in their understanding of the involvement of complement activation in AMD.

Professor Simon Clark, a specialist in the regulation of the complement system in health and disease at the University of Manchester, said, “Up until now, the role played by FHR proteins in disease has only ever been inferred. But now we show a direct link and, more excitingly, become a tangible step closer to identifying a group of potential therapeutic targets to treat this debilitating disease.”  

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The Grecian Eyes: RADAR Gets €500,000 in Government Funds for Early Dyslexia Screening to Aid 1,500 Children of Crete



|| Thursday: June 20: 2019 || ά. RADAR, a new non-invasive screening platform, developed by RADARMISSION Ltd to identify children at high risk of Dyslexia and related reading disorders, will deploy its first at scale neuro-biological testing programme, ‘Defeat Dyslexia’ in Crete, Greece. The initiative, conducted in co-operation with the Hellenic Mediterranean University and the Region of Crete will receive €500,000 Euro in funding, approved by Crete’s Governor Mr Stavros Arnaoutakis.

This programme will, initially, target 1,500 children and, eventually, all the children on the island. "Here on Crete, we are addressing many pressing concerns, including, infrastructure modernisation, efforts at sustainability and job creation but, none is more crucial than ensuring the future for our children's.” said Mr Arnaoutakis, the Governor of Crete. “We believe this co-operation with Dr Aslanides and his RADAR team will help eliminate a huge hurdle, that, might, otherwise, affect many of our school children."

The study will run at the RADAR Emmetropia Eye Institute headquarters under the direct supervision of the Hellenic Mediterranean University alongside the inter-disciplinary team, led by one of the world’s most prominent ophthalmologists, Dr Ioannis Aslanides. The epidemiological study is the first of its kind where doctors, speech therapists, informatics specialists and social workers monitor the prevalence of Dyslexia and reading abnormalities. This digital diagnostic approach will lay the foundation for digital-based customised treatments for the first time, as well.

With more than 4,000 experiments completed and on-going evaluation studies at Harvard University in the United States and Cardiff Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, the RADAR method of screening is the first-ever objective and quantifiable early screening method for Dyslexia.

“When we first began developing RADAR a decade ago, the mission was to defeat Dyslexia and the horrible effects the anomaly exacts on so many.” said Dr Aslanides. “Now, with the help of some of the world’s most dedicated engineers, doctors, educators and willing leaders, we are inches away from winning a major battle against learning disorders.”

RADAR uses eye tracking parameter measurements with high discriminative power, as indicated by receiver operating characteristic:ROC curves and obtained during silent text reading. These are combined to derive a total reading score:TRS, that can reliably separate readers with Dyslexia from typical readers. The deployment of ‘Defeat Dyslexia’ in Crete is an opportunity for the researchers to refine the RADAR platform and to create customised therapies as indicated by the results.

Dr Aslanides says that this is the first broad-based deployment of such a tool and the only case, in which speech pathologists, social workers and ophthalmologists work together to scrutinisze the screening effort.

Experts in the field estimate that about 15% to 20% of the world’s population suffers from some form of Dyslexia or related reading disorders but, most are never diagnosed. The implications for very early quantifiable screening of children are tremendous.

Dyslexics have trouble identifying words, spelling, writing, reading aloud and, even, solving mathematic problems. While it can not be cured, early diagnosis and proper therapies will help students reach their full potential outside the world of reading. The steps taken to screen all the children on Crete will provide a model for creating a new diagnostic and customised therapeutic process educators and health professionals can deploy safely and efficiently in schools and health institutions.

About RADAR: RADAR, which is an acronym for ‘Rapid Assessment for Dyslexia and Abnormalities in Reading’ is a ground-breaking screening system developed by Dr Aslanides. It is a novel, fast, objective, non-invasive method, which screens for features associated with the aberrant visual scanning of reading text, seen in Dyslexia and related disorders. The system, which relies on advanced algorithms, combined with a simple reading test, is easy to implement at low cost, making it appropriate for large-scale screening of children aged eight to 14 and it can, also, be deployed for patients all over the world, regardless of their age.

About RADARMISSION Ltd RADARMISSION Ltd is an eye-tracking-based company, founded by Dr Ioannis Aslanides, MD, PhD, F.R.C.Ophth, MBA, who is the Medical Director of Emmetropia Eye Institute, one of the top eye-surgery centres in Greece. It specialises in applications of eye tracking technology, with a focus on Dyslexia and reading disabilities. It has pioneered eye tracking research in South Eastern Europe and holds multiple patents for both eye tracking hardware and medical software. As a leader in its field, it has conducted several research studies and trials in the field of learning difficulties and Dyslexia over the last 10 years. Its current research partners include, among others, Harvard University, USA and Cardiff Metropolitan University, UK. The company routinely organises events in Europe, raising awareness for Dyslexia and learning difficulties and promoting a more informed stance against these disorders.:::ω.

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A Moonlight Sonata for the Dung Beetles: Navigate in Wonder Under the Full Moon



|| February 24: 2019: Lund University News || ά. Of all nocturnal animals, only, the dung beetles can hold their course, using polarised moonlight. Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have now shown that the beetles can use polarised light when its signal strength is weak, which, may, allow them to find their bearings when artificial light from cities swamp natural moonlight.

Moonlight becomes polarised when it strikes particles in the upper atmosphere on its journey to Earth. In this Study, the researchers show that the strength of this polarised light-signal changes depending on the moon’s phase. Polarised light from a quarter moon is only one-third as strong as at full moon and just one-fifth as strong for a crescent moon. While poor resolution prevents dung beetles from discriminating fine details, such as, trees, tents and cars, they are remarkably sensitive, perceiving the polarised light in the blue moonlit sky, that appears dark to human eyes.

“Our investigation reveals that these beetles would be sufficiently sensitive to orient themselves underneath a light-polluted city sky during full moon. But they would be lost during a quarter or crescent moon.” says Mr James Foster, Researcher at the Department of Biology at Lund University. “This is the very first evidence that the polarisation of skylight changes over the lunar cycle.”

Together with colleagues in Lund, Germany, South Africa and the USA the researchers tested just how dung beetles cope with this weak signal at night when using polarisation as their compass to roll a dung ball in a straight line across the African savannah. On clear nights, they perceive this polarised light in a blue sky like the one we see on a sunny day but, thousands of times darker.

In experiments the researchers showed that the beetles are extremely sensitive to polarised light. The dung beetles can cope with the weakest signals detected by diurnal insects, even,  when the polarised light is just one-thousandth as bright. “They navigate just as well at night as bees do by day; bees, also, use polarised light.”, says Professor Marie Dacke, at the Department of Biology at Lund University.

The different phases of the moon, full moon, quarter moon or crescent moon, thus, affect how strongly-polarised the sky appears. Light pollution is, also, a factor. Artificial light, such as, street lighting in and around cities reduces the polarisation of the moonlit sky. Even so, the beetles would be sensitive enough to hold their course, using this weaker polarisation during full moon.

Besides polarised light, dung beetles use colour and brightness patterns in the night sky to get their bearings. The research team previously gained attention in connection with their discovery that dung beetles use the Milky Way as a compass reference, helping them to roll dung balls in a straight line in the dark. However, more recent experiments have shown that on moonlit nights polarisation is their most important compass reference.:::ω.

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Optoelctronics at the University of Southampton and What It Has Done for the World and World Humanity




|| December 14: 2018: University of Southampton News || ά. The University of Southampton’s pioneering contribution to optical fibre technology, that now enables the internet to span the world, has been named as one of the UK’s 100 best breakthroughs for its significant impact on people’s everyday lives. While publishing this news The Humanion would like to point out this very fact that the very term optoelectronics had not existed, not terribly long ago and now not only it has come to exist but become a reality, bringing out new realities to exist in reality. This is how the human condition advances or, this how visionaries bring forth ideas, that shift paradigm, that lift the human condition to higher realms, where things were deemed impossible once, now they do exist or, rather, they become possible. One can not do quantum physics sticking their head in classical mechanics; they, must, first, rise beyond it to see the other paradigm. One, must, first, refuse to ‘ant around’ the valley of the Himalaya and risk and rise towards the summit of this mountain to see what is out there!

What is saddening to see is in today’s world is the fact that there are a lot of universities, that are abandoning their purpose and seeking to just copy whatever the market and its manipulations put on their plate without questioning or raising an eye-brow. Whoever is giving some money, they are taking them without any question asked and they are wasting precious human resources in things, that are utter rubbish and worst possible waste while they are seeking to validate and offer prestige to these market profiteers. It is time Universities wake up and stop doing that because soon this very tendency will be their death-knell. However, here is our point. This is how the human condition advances or is taken forward. And, visionaries do this: take us forward.

But the difference between visionaries and the rest is the former is a kind of their own while the later is an entity, that follows the lot thrown at them. In this field of Optoelectronics is the proof, that faint-hearted, copy-catting or sheep-shaping will not do: it requires vision and the courage to support and believe in that vision so that one invests in it one’s entire being to foster it, develop it, nurture it and take it forward while there are endless number of cynics and know it all, who are screaming at that one, mad one, that this was not going to work: but they all are, always and forever, wrong, it always works; it shall always work. The ingenuity of Southampton Professor Sir David Payne and the University’s world-leading Optoelctronics Research Centre:ORC, together, honoured to join the UK’s Best Breakthroughs list of the last century. And, rightly, so.

The list of breakthroughs demonstrates how UK universities are at the forefront of some of the world’s most important discoveries, innovations and social initiatives, transforming lives in the UK and around the world. Professor Sir David Payne, the Director of the ORC, said, “It is a fantastic achievement for the ORC and the University of Southampton to be featured in the UK’s Best Breakthrough list. The list provides an excellent opportunity for the public to better understand the true impact of our research. We’re extremely proud of our work and the difference it continues to make to people and communities in Southampton, the UK and around the globe.”

Fifty years ago, the ORC received global recognition for inventing one of the world’s first ultra-low loss optical fibres before pioneering the fibre amplifier, that enabled the internet to span the world. This inspired innovation was recognised by the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education last year.

Today, ORC optical fibre inventions navigate airliners, cut steel and are found on the moon, Mars and International Space Station. And, now, through the development of hollow-core fibres, the next generation of optical fibres, the ORC is bringing data transmission rates within touching distance of the speed of light.

Professor Dame Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, said, “Universities really do transform lives. The technology we use every day, the medicines, that save lives, the teachers, who inspire, all come from UK universities and the important work being done by academics. The UK’s Best Breakthroughs list is a testament to the difference that universities make to people’s lives and we want everyone to join us in celebrating the work they do.”:::ω. 

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New Project Gets Funding for Vital Research Into Severe Corneal Infections in Low and Middle Income Countries



|| August 11: 2018: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine News || ά. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine:LSHTM has been awarded more than £03 million by the Wellcome Trust for new research into severe corneal infections in low and middle income countries:LMICs. The work will be conducted by LSHTM’s International Centre for Eye Health:ICEH, led by Professor Matthew Burton. Over a five-year period, the funding will allow an international partnership of eye health experts in Uganda, Tanzania and Nepal to carry out world-leading research to improve the outcomes for people with corneal infections.

Corneal infections are a significant public health problem in LMICs, with an estimated 04.4 million infections in Asia and 01.2 million in Africa each year. The disease, typically, affects people in adulthood during their most productive years of life and has major impacts on both quality of life and economic productivity. If, not treated rapidly or effectively, corneal infections can lead to permanent loss of vision through scarring of the cornea in the affected eye. In severe cases, the cornea, may, rupture, which, often, means that removing the eye is the only possible treatment. Infections of the cornea, the clear window at the front of the eye, are caused by either bacteria, fungi, viruses or parasites.

In developed countries, such as, the UK, most corneal infections are caused by bacteria, although, fungal infections appear to be on the rise. In certain LMICs, where the climate is hotter and more humid, fungal infections are estimated to account for over 60% of corneal infections.

Fungal corneal infections are harder to treat than bacterial infections, with existing therapies, often, being ineffective. In addition, anti-fungal eye drops are, often, unavailable in many LMICs; when they are available, they are, often, too expensive for most people to afford. Accurately recognising and differentiating the organism responsible for these infections is, also, a challenge.

To address the problems in diagnosing and treating corneal infections, the team’s research will focus on four main areas: Researching alternative, cheaper, accessible and more effective antifungal eye drops; Looking at how to reduce the damaging effects infections have on the cornea with eye drops, with a new anti-scarring treatment; Implementing early interventions in primary care to identify and treat infections quickly and Developing reliable and simple tools to aid diagnosis.

Professor Matthew Burton, of International Eye Health at LSHTM and Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow, said, “I am delighted that we have received this funding from the Wellcome Trust, which will allow us to carry out vital work in reducing the burden of serious corneal infections. 

These infections disproportionately affect people with the most limited resources. By focusing on both improving the diagnosis and the treatments available, we hope to improve the outcomes of those affected by corneal disease.”

Dr Simon Arunga, a PhD student at ICEH-LSHTM and an Ophthalmologist based in Uganda, said, “This funding is a great opportunity to build on our ongoing work in exploring ways to reduce the burden of avoidable blindness due to severe corneal infections.

I am excited to continue working with a group of like-minded collaborators on this project that has potential to impact the lives of many people affected by corneal infections.’’ :::ω.

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New International Multi-Disciplinary Research Project to Understand How to Better Predict Blindness in Patients with Age Related Macular Degeneration



|| July 15: 2018: University of Southampton News || ά. A University of Southampton eye specialist is leading research using advanced imaging to predict which patients with early Age Related Macular Degeneration:AMD are at more risk of blindness. Professor Andrew Lotery, of Ophthalmology in the University’s Faculty of Medicine and Institute for Life Sciences, is leading an international research team, which has received nearly £04 million funding from the Wellcome Trust to explore what makes early AMD progress towards visual loss.

The innovative study brings together experts in ophthalmology, genetics, statistics and computer science to collaborate on the project. AMD is a very common cause of blindness with 200 million people expected to be affected by 2020, increasing to nearly 300 million by 2040. It is a complex, inherited and diverse disease, that affects the macula, the central retina, that is responsible for detailed central vision. Doctors currently don’t know who will develop the sight-threatening stage of the disease; some patients progress slowly or not at all, while others quickly deteriorate.

The five-year research project will programme computers to analyse high resolution images of the inside of the eye to identify what eye changes appear in patients with AMD and identify the structural changes, that lead to and are associated with cell degeneration in the retina in patients with early AMD.

Professor Lotery, who is, also, a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Southampton General Hospital’s eye unit, says, “Our research aims to pinpoint what makes AMD progress towards visual loss and enable us to better predict which patients will progress to the late stages of the disease. By understanding more about these markers and why AMD develops, we will be able to better inform patients, clinicians and researchers on prevention, screening, and individualised treatment strategies. 

Ultimately, it will help us make sure patients are in the right place, with some in the community and those, who need specialised treatment in hospital and will, also, help us manage capacity better.

We will be able to run clinical trials more effectively and, thus, allow faster development of new treatments. We expect the research to give us new insights into how the disease develops and new treatments will result from this.”

The project involves studying over 60,000 retinal images of patients, who have, already, had their eyes scanned as part of the UK biobank. Results from this analysis will be validated in 400 patients with early AMD, who will have their eyes scanned every four months to detect the earliest focal sites of disease progression. They will undergo advanced imaging of the major tissues; neurosensory retina, retinal pigment epithelium and choriocapillaris to identify the sequence of cell degeneration.

The study is being carried out in collaboration with established tertiary referral centres for patients with retinal disease at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, Moorfields Eye Hospital:MEH, Medical University of Vienna and University Hospital Basel. It, also, involves computer science and statistic experts at Imperial College, London and genetics experts at the University of Michigan.

Principal Investigator Professor Lotery is renowned for his major contributions to preventing blindness by finding and characterising genes, that are involved in macular and photoreceptor degeneration and translating these genetic discoveries through to the clinic.

The £3,980,169 funding will allow him and his co-investigators to create the best multi-disciplinary team with a proven track record in AMD research, providing expertise in advanced image analysis, genetics, computational and trial statistics, Programmed Algorithmic Machination and comprehensive visual function evaluation.

His co-investigators are Professor Sobha Sivaprasad, University College London, Professor Toby Prevost and Professor Daniel Rueckert, Imperial College London, Professor Henrik Scholl, University of Basel, Dr Lars Fritsche, University of Michigan, Professor Ursula Schmidt-Ehrfurth and Dr Sebastian Waldstein, Medical University of Vienna. :::ω.

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New Development in Contact Lenses for Red-Green Colour Blindness Using Simple Dye



|| May 01: 2018: University of Birmingham News || ά. Researchers at the University of Birmingham have developed a contact lens, that, may, help people with colour blindness simply by using a low cost dye, according to research published on April 26 in the journal Advanced Healthcare Materials. Colour blindness or colour vision deficiency:CVD is an inherited genetic ocular disorder, in which some people have difficulty distinguishing certain colours. While no cure for this disorder exists, several methods have been used to increase the colour perception of those affected. However, current products on the market, such as, colour filtering glasses are expensive, bulky and incompatible with other vision corrective glasses.

Normal colour vision is trichromatic, which means any colour can be created by combining the colours blue, red and green, which are perceived by a cluster of cones at the back of the eye. These cones are divided into three groups, responsible for short wavelengths: blue; medium wavelengths: green and long wavelengths: red. In normal vision all three are present. When any of these cones are missing, the brain receives incorrect information leading to limited ability to identify certain colours in some people. Several companies are, already, selling glasses and custom made lenses for colour blindness correction, which can be expensive for many users, however, in this research an inexpensive soft commercial contact lens was dyed with a non-toxic rhodamine derivative dye.

This particular derivative of rhodamine was chosen as it is known for its ability to absorb certain wavelengths of light in the optical spectrum. Researchers found that the dye blocked the band, that lies between the red and green wavelengths, which is perceived by two sets of corresponding optical cones simultaneously. The removal of this band through the dyed lens inhibited the simultaneous triggering of the cones designated for green and red wavelength bands, enabling better differentiation between red and green colours.

The dyed lens was tested on people with red-green colour vision deficiency, the most common form of CVD. The dyed contact lens was applied to a glass slide. The participants were asked to look at several numbers through the dyed lens and to note whether there were any improvements to the colours or the clarity of the number. They were, also, asked to observe their surroundings and note whether they saw any improvements in their colour perception.

The results verified that dye tinted lenses can be used to enhance the colour perception of people affected by colour vision deficiency. Further patient studies are now underway.

Dr Haider Butt, Lead Researcher from the University of Birmingham’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Institute of Healthcare Technologies said, ''Contact lenses are of interest for colour blindness correction because it is easier to correct the entire field of view. The dye processing we carried out does not need any complex preparation, it is not toxic to the human eye and our method could be easily used in both glasses and contact lenses at low cost.

We are now looking into using a similar process to correct purple-blue colour blindness and, also, to bring together a number of dyes to make lenses perform for both red-green and purple-blue colour blindness simultaneously. We are about to commence human clinical trials shortly.’
::: ω.

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Regine Humanics Foundation Begins Its Journey Today: The Humanion Is Now A Regine Humanics Foundation Publication


|| April 06: 2018 || ά. The Humanion was first published on September 24, 2015 and has been run, since that day, on a complete voluntary basis without any 'formal' or 'constituted' manner or form and, it was run on as a Human Enterprise, which is an idea of Humanics, in which, ownership is replaced by belongingship and, thus, in a Humanical Society, no one owns anything but everyone belongs to the whole as the whole belongs to everyone lawfully and equally and, it neither believes in nor makes money but human utilities, needs, aspirations, creativity, imagination and dreams are served without money, where everyone works and creates for all others as all others create and work for all others, thus, bringing in meaning and purpose to life along with it come natural justice, equality and liberty, that establish a true civilisation within the Rule of Law. And in one word, this system of human affairs management is called, Humanics and a society that runs itself in humanics is called a humanical society. Today, we have begun the process of 'constituting' this Human Enterprise, which does not exist in the current system, but the next closest thing to it, that exists in the UK Law is Social Enterprise. Therefore, today, Friday, April 06, 2018, we are beginning Regine Humanics Foundation, that is the 'Agency', that will lead, run, manage and develop everything, that The Humanion has been trying to do.

Regine Humanics Foundation is established by the Thinker, Author, Poet, Novelist, Playwright, Editor of The Humanion, Festival Director of London Poetry Festival and a Humanicsxian: hu: maa: neek: tian: One, that believes in, lives and exists by Humanics, Mr Munayem Mayenin, of London, England, United Kingdom. Mr Mayenin says, ''Humanics is a vision; people, may, call it, utopia, we, call it our Humanicsovicsopia; Humanics. Humanics is our philosophy, our faith, our conviction, our resolution, our way of existing, thinking, being and doing: to seek and try to do so in the determination that all we must do and be is to exist to advance the human condition. People, readers and agencies and organisations, from all across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and the whole of the United Kingdom and Australasia, Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America, from all walks and strata of life, have supported our endeavours, supported The Humanion and The Humanion Team, who volunteered their time to run things, since the beginning of The Humanion and long before that, when other things, that are now part of The Foundation, were developing. Nothing has changed in terms of the nature and value of what we have been seeking to do.''

''But the founding of The Foundation brings it all in a solid foundation so that we can keep on building this 'vision' so that it keeps on going regardless of who come to take the vision-mission of The Foundation forward. The Foundation runs along with time and along with the flowing humanity. This is the dream, this is the vision, this the hope in founding this Foundation. And, in this, we hope and invite all our readers, supporters, well wishers and all agencies and organisations to support our endeavours to build something, a Human Enterprise, which we are in the process of registering as a Social Enterprise, as a Community Interest Company, working for the common good of the one and common humanity. No one makes or takes profit out of The Foundation, which now runs The Humanion and everything else, that is part of it. The Foundation, once registered, will have an Asset Lock, which means that in any event, should The Foundation dissolve itself, all its existing assets shall go to a similar Social Enterprise. Therefore, we invite everyone to support The Foundation, support The Humanion in whatever way they can. And, there are endless number of ways people and organisations can support The Foundation and The Humanion.'' ::: ω.

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Micro-Environment of Diabetic Retinopathy Supports Lymphatic Neo-Vascularisation







|| March 30: 2018: University of Helsinki News: Päivi Lehtinen Writing  || ά. “We asked whether Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy involves the growth of new lymphatic vessels in addition to blood vessels and, indeed, we found, expression of lymphatic markers in the PDR tissues.” This new study, conducted at the University of Helsinki, was published in the Journal of Pathology. Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy is a major sight-threatening diabetic complication. Nearly, all patients with type one iabetes and over 60% of patients with type two I diabetes develop retinopathy after 20 years of diabetes, despite metabolic control.

PDR comes into existence through the process of pathological angiogenesis, when endothelial cells of the retinal vasculature invade their surroundings and project into the vitreous, the gel substance present inside the eye. The new vessels are fragile and leaky, which leads to vitreous haemorrhage and a fibrotic response, that will, eventually, pull the retina causing retinal detachment and, subsequent, vision loss. When these vessels develop, diabetic patients are directed to vitreo-retinal surgery, whereby the newly formed pathological fibro-vascular tissue is excised.

''Given the fact that current diabetic mouse models do not, fully, recapitulate this human diabetic eye complication, our research group set out to utilise these excised neo-fibro-vascular tissues for the in-depth characterisation of the disease pathophysiolog.'' says Researcher Ms Erika Gucciardo at the University of Helsinki.

One major question the group had was to understand the nature of these vessels. ''Chronic tissue inflammation is present in Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy and we know it is connected with lymphangiogenesis. Therefore, we asked whether Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy involves the growth or differentiation of new lymphatic vessels.'' says Mr Gucciardo.

The researchers found, indeed, expression of lymphatic markers in the PDR tissues. ''It is, increasingly, clear that studying the micro-environment is of fundamental importance to understand the mechanisms of a disease. The close collaboration between clinics and research laboratory opened such avenue.'' says Research Director Ms Kaisa Lehti, Karolinska Institutet and University of Helsinki.

Vitreous samples were collected peri-operatively and used to understand the contribution of the diabetic intra-ocular micro-environment to the lymphatic endothelial involvement. The researchers found that, indeed, vitreous samples with increasing concentration of major lymphangiogenic growth factor VEGFC supported the lymphatic endothelial identity and corresponded to fibro-vascular tissues with lymphatic marker expression.

The functionality of these vessels in PDR pathogenesis remains to be investigated.  ''It will be interesting to know whether these lymphatic vessels develop coincidentally with abnormal blood vessels or only later upon PDR progression and whether they are detrimental or beneficial, e.g, towards fluid removal and inflammatory cells trafficking.'' Mr Gucciardo says.

All together these discoveries bring a new concept to diabetic micro-vascular complications and can lead to new treatment approaches.

''In the future, therapeutic strategies targeting both lymphangiogenesis and angiogenesis, may, represent promising approaches for treating ischemia and inflammation-associated posterior segment retinal diseases, states ophthalmic surgeon.'' Dr. Sirpa Loukovaara from Helsinki University Hospital.

The Paper: Microenvironment of proliferative diabetic retinopathy supports lymphatic neovascularization: Erika Gucciardo, Sirpa Loukovaara, Ani Korhonen, auliina Repo, Beatriz Martins, Helena Vihinen, Eija Jokitalo and Kaisa Lehti: Journal of Pathology 2018 ::: ω.

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Breakthrough in the Treatment of Age Related Macular Degeneration



|| March 20: 2018: Moorfields Eye Hospital News || ά. Patients regain sight after being the first to receive retinal tissue engineered from stem cells. Successful trial on patients using new stem cell based treatment for wet age related macular degeneration:AMD. The results from a clinical study suggest the treatment is safe and effective. The study is a major milestone for the London Project to Cure Blindness and could lead to an ‘off-the-shelf’ treatment within five years. The results of this ground-breaking clinical study, published in Nature Biotech, described the implantation of a specially engineered patch of retinal pigment epithelium cells derived from stem cells to treat people with sudden severe sight loss from wet AMD. It is hoped that it will, also, help treat dry AMD in the future.

It’s the first description of a complete engineered tissue, that has been, successfully, used in this way. The study is a major milestone for the London Project to Cure Blindness, a partnership between Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and the National Institute for Health Research:NIHR. AMD is the most common cause of sight loss in the UK and can lead to a rapid loss of central or reading vision. The two patients, who underwent the procedure, a woman in her early 60s and a man in his 80s, had the severe form of the condition, wet AMD and declining vision. The study investigated whether the diseased cells at the back of the patients’ affected eye could be replenished using the stem cell based patch. A specially engineered surgical tool was used to insert the patch under the retina in the affected eye of each patient in an operation lasting one to two hours.

The patients were monitored for 12 months and reported improvements to their vision. They went from not being able to read at all, even, with glasses, to reading 60-80 words per minute with normal reading glasses. Mr Douglas Waters, 86, from Croydon, London, was one of the two people, who had received the treatment at Moorfields Eye Hospital. He developed severe wet AMD in July 2015 and received the treatment three months later in his right eye.

He says, “In the months before the operation my sight was really poor and I couldn’t see anything out of my right eye. I was struggling to see things clearly, even, when up-close. After the surgery my eyesight improved to the point, where I can now read the newspaper and help my wife out with the gardening. It’s brilliant what the team has done and I feel so lucky to have been given my sight back.”

Professor Lyndon da Cruz, Consultant Retinal Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said, “The results suggest that this new therapeutic approach is safe and provides good visual outcomes. The patients, who received the treatment had very severe AMD and their improved vision will go some way towards enhancing their quality of life. We recognise that this is a small group of patients but we hope that what we have learned from this study will benefit many more in the future.”

Professor Pete Coffey, UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said, “This study represents real progress in regenerative medicine and opens the door to new treatment options for people with age-related macular degeneration. We hope this will lead to an affordable ‘off-the-shelf’ therapy that could be made available to NHS patients within the next five years.”

The London Project to Cure Blindness

'Phase One clinical study of an embryonic stem cell–derived retinal pigment epithelium patch in age-related macular degeneration is published in Nature Biotech: DOI 10.1038/nbt.4114

How the procedure works: The retina is made of many different layers. One of the critical layers, called, the retinal pigment epithelium:RPE separates blood vessels from the nerve layer and nourishes the retina. This layer is damaged in patients with AMD. In this new approach, researchers took a stem cell, which is a single cell and reproduced it many times, turning them into a perfect copy of the RPE layer, that needs to be replaced in patients with AMD. This is, then, placed onto a patch and inserted under the retina to replace the damaged cells.

Age-related macular degeneration:AMD is the most common cause of sight loss in the developed world. More than 600,000 people are affected by AMD in the UK:Macular Society. It, usually, affects people over the age of 60. There are two types of AMD, wet and dry. Wet AMD develops, when abnormal blood vessels grow into the macula. These leak blood or fluid, which leads to vision loss and secondary scarring of the macula and, in some cases, rapid loss of central or reading vision. There is no cure for wet AMD but it can be treated by injecting drugs into the eye to stop the growth of the abnormal blood vessels. These injections are needed regularly to preserve vision.

Dry AMD is the most common type of macular degeneration and affects 90% of the people, who have the condition. In the dry form, there is a breakdown or thinning of the layer of retinal pigment epithelial cells:RPE in the macula. These RPE cells support the light sensitive photoreceptor cells, that are so critical to vision. There is no treatment at present for dry AMD after the photoreceptors are lost.

The London Project to Cure Blindness is collaboration between Professor Pete Coffey from University College London and Professor Lyndon da Cruz, a Retinal Surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital. The project aims to bring stem cell therapy for retinal diseases, especially, for age-related macular degeneration:AMD to the clinic as rapidly as possible. We believe stem cell based therapies for these conditions have the greatest chances of preventing blindness, restoring sight and improving sufferers’ quality of life in the future.

The London Project to Cure Blindness was established by a philanthropic donation from an anonymous American donor. Philanthropy plays a significant role in funding the programme, including, continued support from Moorfields Eye Charity.

The London Project to Cure Blindness receives support from an anonymous philanthropic American donor, The Lincy Foundation USA, Moorfields Eye Charity, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, the Macular Society, the UK Medical Research Council:MRC, Cells for Sight manufacturing facility at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology and Moorfields, Pfizer Inc, CIRM Bowes Foundation.

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is a world-leading provider of eye care services in the UK. We provide a wide range of clinical services, caring for patients in over 30 locations in and around London to provide expert treatment closer to patients’ homes. We, also, operate commercial divisions, that provide care to private patients in both London and the Middle East. With our academic partner, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, we are recognised as a leading centre of excellence in eye research and education.

UCL Institute of Ophthalmology is one of a number of specialised biomedical research centres within UCL. We conduct advanced science, attracting research workers of the highest international calibre. In recognition of the Institute’s international standing, the most recent Higher Education Funding Council for England:HEFCE Research Evaluation Framework exercise confirmed the outstanding quality of research carried out at the Institute. According to the 2017 Centre for World University Rankings, UCL is the best place in the world to study ophthalmology.

The National Institute for Health Research:NIHR
 Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre:BRC was established in April 2007 and awarded its third five-year term by the NIHR in April 2017. Alongside the NIHR Moorfields Clinical Research Facility:CRF for Experimental Medicine, our main purpose is to accelerate the progress of biomedical research from the laboratory into early phase safety trials so that scientific breakthroughs, that hold promise for patients can proceed along the clinical testing pathway more quickly. Our BRC is one of 20 Biomedical Research Centres awarded to NHS:university partnerships with an outstanding international reputation for research. As a partnership between Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology we are at the centre of one of the largest ophthalmic research sites in the world.

Moorfields Eye Charity supports the work of Moorfields Eye Hospital and its research partner, the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, making a difference for patients at the hospital and for people with sight problems around the world. It provides grants and raises money to help the hospital provide the best possible care for its patients, educate the researchers and clinicians of tomorrow and support leading-edge research that aims to develop new treatments for blinding diseases. ω.  

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Photonics: Our Specialty Optical Fibre Inventions Now Navigate Airliners Cut Steel and Can Be Found on the Moon Mars and the International Space Station...And Perhaps One Day Even Propelling Spacecraft Through the Universe


|| February 26: 2018: University of Southampton News  || ά. A delegation from the University of Southampton has visited the Buckingham Palace for ceremonies to receive the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. The Prize, awarded for the University’s world-leading expertise in photonics and fibre optic technology, was presented by HRH Prince Charles and Southampton Honorary Graduate HRH the Duchess of Cornwall to Professor Sir David Payne and Professor Nikolai Zheludev from Southampton’s world-renowned Optoelectronics Research Centre. The Queen's Anniversary Prizes are the UK's most prestigious form of recognition for a UK academic or vocational institution, with approval directly from The Queen and Parliament.