As I learned while editing the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, many of the strategies being explored by Stanford vision researchers sound seriously sci-fi. Among them: cornea transplants conducted with magnetic fields instead of scalpels, virtual reality workouts to repair damaged retinas and bionic vision.
The magazine's summer issue, a theme issue on eyes and vision, includes details about these projects and others aimed at helping people see.
The lead article explains the basic workings of the eye and describes an array of ophthalmological research, including work to repair damaged corneas by injecting healthy cells into the eye and using magnets to pull the cells into position. A patient in a small early study entered the trial legally blind, with 20/200 vision, and left it with 20/40 vision — close to normal. A larger study is planned to begin soon.
Also in the issue, which was produced in collaboration with Stanford’s Byers Eye Institute:
- "Eye spy": A story about using adaptive optics technology, originally used to track spy satellites, to see inside the eye.
- "Bionic": A feature on progress toward bionic vision — using video glasses and a tiny implant to restore sight.
- "The fearful eye": A report on using terrifying virtual reality experiences, such as being attacked by sharks, to understand the neuroscience of fear. A video on the subject accompanies the online version of the story.
- "Pathways": An article explaining how work by neuroscientist Carla Shatz, PhD, revolutionized the understanding of brain development and continues to uncover surprises, such as interactions between brain cells and the immune system.
- "Eye opening": A piece on a mountain-climbing doctor who co-founded the Himalayan Cataract Project, which has performed more than 600,000 cataract surgeries in the developing world.
- "A high-stakes surgery": A story about removing a tumor from a teen’s eye, which not only restored her vision but changed her life.
The magazine also includes an article about Stanford Medicine’s inaugural issue of Health Trends Report, an annual review and analysis of the health care sector; a feature on the use of the anesthetic drug ketamine to treat obsessive compulsive disorder; and an essay by bestselling author Joyce Maynard about living through a loved one’s painful death from pancreatic cancer. Audio of a conversation between Maynard and the magazine’s executive editor, Paul Costello, accompanies the essay.
Altogether, it's an issue you'll want to eye carefully.
Previously: Stanford Medicine magazine reports on sex, gender and medicine, What art and the humanities bring to medicine: a look from Stanford Medicine magazine and The power and limits of zeroing in: Stanford Medicine magazine on diagnostics
Illustration by John Hersey