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Br J Ophthalmol. 2007 May; 91(5): 704.
PMCID: PMC1954752

From the Library

“In the third century BC Greek medicine also made its greatest progress, owing it to two Greek immigrants in the kings' big cities.” In Antioch, Erasistratus examined the valves of the heart and theorised that ‘breath' passed through the arteries. In Alexandria, Herophilus made amazing progress in discovering the nerves, ventricles in the brain, ovaries (though he did not understand their purpose) and much else, while writing admirably about the pulse. The Ptolemies are said to have helped this great leap of knowledge by making condemned prisoners available not just for dissection but for vivisection too. The doctors' brief access to living anatomy bore a cruel, but valuable, fruit. Egyptian medicine, by contrast, had tended to trace all disease to that root of evil, the backside. Fox, RL. The Classical World. An Epic History From Homer to Hadrian. New York, Basic Books; 2006:252–3.

The genetic underpinnings of Leber hereditary optic neuropathy has been clarified considerably in the last decade. Now investigators are studying whether the use of mitochondrial antioxidant defenses may be effective in rescuing affected cells. These studies demonstrate that the superoxide anion is involved in Leber hereditary optic neuropathy cell death. The authors suggest that early treatment perhaps when disc edema first manifests to bolster anti‐reactive oxygen species defenses may suppress the death of retinal ganglion cells in Leber hereditary optic neuropathy. (Arch Ophthalmol 2007;125:268–72)

It is well known that height loss occurs in most individuals as they age. However, a drop of more than three centimeters correlates with an increase in illness and death according to a 20 year survey of British men. This appears to be due to the fact that excessive height loss is correlated with clinically significant osteoporosis. Researchers have long known that osteoporosis affects mortality by compromising breathing and digestion. (Arch Intern Med 2006;166:2546–52)

Scientists at the biotechnology firm Advanced Cell Technology have generated an abundant source of RPE cells. They have devised a way to stimulate embryonic stem cells to turn into transplantable retinal pigment epithelial cells. They have injected these cells into the eyes of rats with a photoreceptor degenerative disorder. This reduced the degeneration of retinal tissue and preserved some but not normal visual function. (Cloning Stem Cells 2006;8:189–99)

Fine particle pollution has long been associated with reduced lung function. Now there is compelling evidence to associate it also with cardiovascular disease particularly in women. A study of post‐menopausal in women found that an increase in concentration of fine particle pollution significantly increased women's risk of a first cardiovascular event. (N Engl J Med 2007;356:447–58)

Molecules referred to as predictive autoantibodies appear in the blood years before patients show symptoms of various disorders. Currently investigators are studying whether autoantibodies can predict future medical problems such as Addison disease, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus. Investigators predict that in a decade or so screening for certain autoantibodies will almost certainly become a standard of medical examinations. (Sci Amer 2007;296:72–9)

Currently approximately one in every ten thousand people will live to be one hundred years of age or older. If they are to do so without significant neurological problems especially cognitive ones, they will be assisted if they have a common variant of the so‐called CETP gene. This gene leads to larger than normal cholesterol particle in the blood presumably making them less likely to lodge in the lining of blood vessels in the brain and heart. (Neurology 2006;67:2170–5)

The search for an effective anti‐inflammatory agent for the treatment of osteoarthritis continues. Bromealin is an aqueous extract of the pineapple plant. In many countries it has been sold as a natural organic anti‐inflammatory agent. Unfortunately a recent randomised controlled trial did not find that it was effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis. (Quart J Med 2006;99:841–50)

The use of topical cyclosporine for the treatment of chronic dry eye syndrome has increased dramatically since they were introduced for clinical use. A study from the Cleveland Clinic suggests that this treatment is associated with a relief of symptoms and signs of chronic dry eye. However, the authors suggest that patients need to be monitored long‐term since a high recurrence rate of this disorder is well documented. (Ophthalmology 2007;114:76–9)

Many authorities have recommended supplementing the diet with folic acid supplements in order to lower plasma concentrations of homocysteine. This has been done on the theory that by doing so the risk of cardiovascular disease will be reduced. Regrettably although folic acid supplements do reduce plasma concentrations of homocysteine none of the studies performed to date document that by doing so one reduces the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. (JAMA 2006;296:2720–6)

“These studies confirm similarities between taste and vision. Gustducin was found to resemble a class of G‐proteins found in the receptor cells of the eye known as transducins. Moreover, the Columbia team detected the transducin that is specific to the cones and rods of the eye in taste receptor cells (in the tongue). The resemblance proved to be enlightening. For if the papillary cells function like the cells in the eye, then gustducin and transducin activate an enzyme that diminishes cyclic adenosine monophosphate production. In this hypothesis, the shortage of the second messenger would either modify the ion channels of the cell membrane and associated enzymes or disrupt the exchange of calcium ions between the inside and the outside of the cell. This, H. Molecular Gastronomy. Exploring the Science of Flavor. New York, Columbia University Press. 2006:92–3.

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