RESEARCH REPORT: A path to restore vision

Lynne Friedmann is a science writer based in Solana Beach. Her regular column features local science news.

By Lynne Friedmann

A study on the regenerative potential of retinal cells has received a five-year, $4.66 million award from the National Institutes of Health. The long-term goal is to restore visual function lost through diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

Retinal photoreceptors are light-sensing cells that convert complex external visual stimuli to electrical and chemical signals. Degeneration of photoreceptors accounts for the most common forms of irreversible blindness in humans.

The study centers on Muller cells, which are abundant and have the ability — in non-mammalian vertebrates such as fish — to regenerate nerve cells after retinal injury. In mice, researchers were able to turn Muller cells into a type of retinal neuron. Moving forward, researchers propose using chemicals to ultimately reprogram Muller cells into photoreceptors in the eye.

News release at so on this collaborative effort (led by) UCSD, The Scripps Research Institute, and the University of Washington.

New paths for stressed-out Internet
The first geometric “atlas” of the Internet has been created as part of an effort to prevent the Net from collapsing within the next decade or so. There is growing concern among experts that existing Internet routing, which relies only on topological information, is not sustainable.

Imagine that a road — or in the case of the Internet, a connection — is closed for some reason and there is no geographical atlas to plot a new course. This is basically how routing in the Internet works today. As a result, the Internet is already showing signs of instability with parts of it intermittently unreachable.

Researchers report the discovery of a latent hyperbolic (negatively curved) space hidden beneath the Internet’s topography. This led them to devise a method to create an Internet map using hyperbolic geometry that simplifies path-finding throughout the network.

The work was done by the San Diego Supercomputer Center and Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) at UC San Diego, in collaboration with the Universitat de Barcelona in Spain, and the University of Cyprus. Findings appear in Nature Communications. More information at

Tobacco control lowers lung cancer rate
A study by researchers at UC San Diego shows that California’s 40 year-long tobacco control program has resulted in lung cancer rates nearly 25 percent lower than other states. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that — for the first time in more than 20 years – California has not kept up with the nation in increasing the price of cigarettes and is being outspent on tobacco control. This suggests that the state’s lead in lowering cigarette consumption and lung cancer may shrink in the future.

California established the nation’s first comprehensive Tobacco Control Program in 1989. Today fewer than 10 percent of Californians smoke and of those who do, they smoke half as many cigarettes as people in the rest of the country.

The findings appear in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. News release at

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Posted by Halie Johnson on Oct 8, 2010. Filed under Columns, Health & Science, News, Research Report. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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