Many of the strategies being explored at the Stanford University School of Medicine to protect, improve and restore vision 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 new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, a theme issue on eyes and vision, includes details about these projects and others pushing the boundaries of biology and technology to help people see.
“Studies show that when it comes to their health, the thing people most worry about, after death, is losing their vision,” said Jeffrey Goldberg, MD, professor and chair of ophthalmology, in the report’s lead article. “People’s productivity and their activities of daily life hinge critically on vision, more than on any other sense.”
The lead article explains the basic workings of the eye and describes an array of ophthalmological research, including Goldberg’s 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.
“The fear of vision loss, even for people in lesser stages of disease, can be quite dramatic. So anything we can do to stabilize, better diagnose and hopefully one day restore vision in some of these diseases, I think, will have an enormous global impact,” Goldberg said. This type of work is an example of Stanford Medicine’s focus on precision health, the goal of which is to anticipate and prevent disease in the healthy and precisely diagnose and treat disease in the ill.