The September issue of National Geographic arrived in my mailbox recently and the cover read “The End of Blindness – Winning the Fight to See.” The article starts out with a story about a boy who, as a baby, would not make eye contact with his mother when she fed him. Instead, his eyes would make jerky movements and search for something bright, such as a lamp or sunlight coming through a window. He was diagnosed with Leber congenital amaurosis. His vision was bad, and nothing could be done. Yet this past January, at age 16, he walked unaided and confidently through the lobby of the Scheie Eye Institute at Penn, where his treatment was first done 4 years ago. Thanks to 20 years of research, scientists identified the genetic mutation that damaged his retina and found a way to replace the bad gene with a good copy. Scientists are hoping to eventually be able to fix similar genetic defects early in life, or even in utero!
Another story in the article talks of a 50-year-old woman born with retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that causes loss of peripheral vision and eventually loss of all vision. Although she had very poor vision, she managed to finish college and work as a bartender by memorizing the location of every bottle, glass, and beer tap. Eventually, she went completely blind in one eye until June of 2015, when she had a tiny microchip implanted in her retina. Essentially she has a bionic eye in which she can see low-resolution black and white shimmers. With training, she is now able to tell the difference between people and trees, wall and windows.
According to the article. approximately 39 million people are considered blind, and another 246 million have moderate to severe reduced vision. Although scientists still have many obstacles to overcome, treatments such as gene replacement therapy, stem cell therapy, and bionic implants are providing “miracle cures” to a select few.
Gold, Silver, Bronze, or Other
I am a big fan of the Olympics. Every 2 years for the Summer and Winter Olympics, I watch every night (with the exception of the opening and closing ceremonies). This past August in Rio was no different. I like the “marquee” events like swimming, track and field, and beach volleyball. But I also watched hours of water polo, table tennis, archery, and, of course, soccer. Which leads me to this—which do you think is the worst for an Olympian—finishing second, third, or fourth? A study done in 1995 found that those who finish second or fourth are most unhappy, and bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists. Obviously, finishing in fourth place and winning no medal is disappointing. But coming in second is equally discouraging because that usually means that the athlete was oh-so-close to first place.
Here’s a Puzzle for You
These letters are in some kind of order: A, H, R, B, Q. Tell me the 3 letters that come next.