Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve of the eye, which carries visual information from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. This potentially blinding eye disease currently affects 2.7 million people nationwide. Recent projections from the National Eye Institute (NEI) suggest this number of glaucoma cases will more than double by 2030 .
Ed Boyden is creating new brains. A pioneer in the field of optogenetics, he is the founder and principal investigator of the synthetic neurobiology group at the MIT Media Lab, which invents technologies to reveal how cognition and emotion arise from brain networks — and to enable systematic repair of disorders such as epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd).
Using a combination of lasers and genetic engineering, Boyden’s lab implants brains with optical fibers that allow them to activate special proteins in specific neurons and see their connections. In addition to helping create detailed maps of brain circuitry, the engineering of these cells has been used to cure blindness in mice, and could point the way to cures for Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. On the horizon: ways of connecting to the brain via prosthetics.
By inserting genes for light-sensitive proteins into brain cells, neurons can be selectively activated or de-activated with fiber-optic implants. Check out Boyden’s demonstration at TED2011 below.
The single largest cause of adult disability in the developed world is ischemic stroke, in which blood flow in or to the brain is blocked. It precipitates immense amounts of social and financial costs. Currently, therapies for stroke focus on prevention or acute phase treatments that arrest the stroke while it is happening. But many patients are not fortunate enough to get acute phase treatment and suffer neurological damage that leads to functional and cognitive impairment. Until now, there have been almost no options for such patients. But last February, a company called ReNeuron received approval to begin a clinical trial of neural stem cell therapy for disabled stroke patients . Two patients have been treated thus far and the therapy appears to be safe.
Most of us take everyday adult life for granted; we have a place to live, access to transportation and the opportunity to live independently. The same can most likely be said for those of us with adult children. The basics are covered. But what happens if you’re one of the millions of adults living with a developmental disability in this country? What if you’re the parent and caregiver to an adult child with a disability? How is your life different? Are the basics covered?
When people with disabilities turn 21, they and their families are no longer eligible for the services and supports provided by law through the school system. To determine how this affects them, Easter Seals — the nonprofit, community-based health agency dedicated to helping children and adults with disabilities attain greater independence — commissioned Harris Interactive to perform an online poll of adults with disabilities and their parents . The primary goals of the study were to call attention to the challenges these people face, help service providers better respond to their needs, and heighten awareness of the needs of adults living with disabilities and their families.