2015 Stories

Note: Links to these online articles may no longer be active. They are provided here as a reference only. They may continue to be available via the host site's archive.

Osteoporosis Linked to Higher Risk of Sudden Deafness
May 11, 2015 (Yahoo)
Researchers believe that patients suffering from osteoporosis are twice as likely to develop sudden hearing loss. After encountering many osteoporotic patients complaining about hearing problems, Dr. Kai-Jen Tien of the Chi Mei Medical Center in Tainan City, Taiwan, began researching sensorineural hearing loss, which happens when the inner ear is damaged. Although the trials are in their early stages, results have shown promise by demonstrating a relationship between the two conditions. Steven Rauch, M.D., Director of Mass. Eye and Ear’s Vestibular Division, praised the study, but will not be convinced of the link until more trials have been completed.

Save Your Sight by Eating Right
May 4, 2015 (Dallas Morning News)
Recent studies have found nutritional links in reducing the risk of contracting some of today’s most widespread eye diseases. Jennifer Trainer Thompson, co-author of "Eat Right for Your Sight," believes that “you should strive to eat three different colors daily — and the darker the pigment, the better.” Kale has been identified as a major contributor to fighting these diseases. A 2014 study at Mass. Eye and Ear found a link between lowered risk of glaucoma and higher intake of folate, a vitamin found in greens like kale and spinach.

Success of Gene Therapy to Treat Blindness Fades With Follow-Up
May 3, 2015 (Bloomberg Business News)
Since 2013, Spark Therapeutics has aggressively pursued a remedy for patients suffering from debilitating genetic diseases, but Spark – and the rest of the industry – is still far from the desired outcome. One of Spark’s human trials to treat a rare form of childhood blindness initially demonstrated great promise, but the positive effects of the one-time injection have waned over time. The eventual goal of Spark – and other firms – is to treat these rare forms of blindness with a one-time injection. But the trials are a lengthy process, and Eric Pierce, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Retinal Degenerations Service at Mass. Eye and Ear, states that “It would be foolish to think we could get the treatment perfectly right in the first studies.”

Babson College Announces the Establishment of a New Distinguished Professorship in Global Surgery
April 27, 2015 (PR Newswire)
The Kletjian Foundation has established itself as one of Boston’s most altruistic organizations, and is committed to pursuing a future community where all are given the opportunity of receiving high-quality medical care. The foundation's most recent act of generosity was to endow a $3-million professorship in global surgery at Babson College. "The majority of today's global health challenges are managerial, not medical," said Kletjian Foundation Founder and Director Carmella Kletjian, whose organization has also endowed chairs and centers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

A Severely Burned Boy from Africa and the Community that Took Him In
April 26, 2015 (Boston Globe)
After enduring severe facial burns two years ago, four-year-old Leo Ikoribitangaza, a native of Burundi, has traveled to the United States to repair his facial disfiguration. Following his arrival in July 2014, Leo underwent several intensive surgeries that required skin grafts to reconstruct his nose, lips, eyelid, and other facial features. All of the expenses, however, were covered by Shriner’s Hospital. Thanks to Shriner’s generosity, Leo met Mass General surgeon Richard Ehrlichman, who would perform all of Leo’s surgeries. In addition, Shriner’s partnership with Mass. Eye has allowed for affordable care for Leo’s impaired right eye.

Turn it Down? Sporting Events Pose Serious Hearing Hazard
April 22, 2015 (CSN)
Sports fans have made an energetic effort to create a game within the game by competing with other fan bases to set record-breaking noise levels in their home stadiums. Last October, the frenzied fans of the Kansas City Chiefs shook their home stadium to the tune of 142.2 decibels, a noise level sure to harm the unprotected ears of headstrong fans. “People think it’s cool or funny, but there is increasing evidence that if your ears are ringing, damage is happening,” said M. Charles Liberman, Ph.D., Director of the Eaton-Peabody Laboratories at Mass. Eye and Ear. Specialists believe that this is most concerning for children’s ears, and advise parents to have their children wear hearing safeguards at such events.

Boston Marathon Bombing Survivors Deal with Lingering, Invisible Injury: Tinnitus
April 13, 2015 (WGBH)
Despite the remarkable efforts of Boston's physicians since the Boston Marathon terrorist attack in 2013, there are still some injuries -- like tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears -- that are beyond repair. But thanks to a clinical trial, led by research scientist Daniel Polley, Ph.D., and funded by the OneFund, there is hope. "We believe that the brain is the most sophisticated machine in the universe, and we want to take advantage of its own wiring to try to fix itself," said Polley, who has worked with colleagues to develop a tablet-based video game that trains the adult brain to suppress the ringing.

Blind Marathon Runner Shares Joy, Benefits of Pet Therapy at Mass. Eye and Ear
April 9, 2015 (CBS Boston News)
Nine years ago, Will McNamara was involved in a biking accident that left him blind in both eyes and paralyzed from the chest down. After months of rehabilitation, he regained the ability to walk but soon realized that his eyesight would never return to what it once was. Being legally blind, however, has not prevented Will from helping others. On April 20, Will ran his seventh Boston Marathon for Team Eye and Ear, Mass. Eye and Ear's marathon fundraising team. Since he came under the care of Dr. Joseph Rizzo, Will has raised about $100,000 to benefit research at Mass. Eye and Ear. In addition, Will and his therapy dog, Riva, also help Mass. Eye and Ear patients in a more direct fashion, visiting adult and pediatric patients every Wednesday.

Eyeliner too Close to the Eye Leads to Contamination
March 31, 2015 (Medical Daily)
A recent study led by Alison Ng, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has shown the harmful effects of applying eyeliner. Her study sought to classify the results of applying eyeliner inside and outside of the lash line. Her results concluded that between 15 to 30 percent more particles fall into the eye when eyeliner is applied inside of the lash line. Mass. Eye and Ear physician Joseph Ciolino, M.D., indicated that the same issue probably occurs in mascara. Ciolino also noted that “because the tip of the eyeliner can become seeded with bacteria, cosmetics have been implicated in eye infections.” Both physicians agreed that it is safest to apply eyeliner to the outside of the lashes.

Wearable Device to Help Visually Impaired Navigate
March 27, 2015 (Daily Excelsior)
Visually impaired individuals face an everyday challenge of avoiding collision when walking. Most research and funding have been allocated to resources that focus on mitigating or repairing the eye condition. But only has the recent surge in technology allowed researchers to focus on correcting the issue for the interim. Researchers from Mass. Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute have developed a proximity-gauging device that alerts users before approaching an obstacle. A pocket-size device, this gadget “gives warnings only when the users approach to obstacles, not when users stand close to objects and not when moving objects just pass by,” stated senior author Gang Luo, Ph.D., Associate Scientist at Mass Eye and Ear/Schepens, and Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

Baking Soda for Better Vision?
March 23, 2015 (Scientific American)
Bicarbonate is an immensely versatile ion in the human body. Commercially coined “baking soda,” this ion serves an essential role in maintaining blood pH and buffering acid during digestion. In addition to these intestinal functions, bicarbonate also plays a role in eye health. Lab testing has determined that higher levels of bicarbonate increase the retina’s ability to detect movement, but as a result makes the eye less sensitive to light. Mass. Eye and Ear's Clint L. Makino, Ph.D., described the deficiency as “If you’re sitting in darkness and you turned on a steady light, it might now take brighter light for you to say, 'I can see that.”

Barrington Woman Running for Daughter
March 2, 2015 (Fosters.com)
Although Diane Schiavo had been an avid runner for years, it was only after her daughter, Stephanie, was diagnosed with a rare eye illness that she joined Team Eye and Ear to run the Boston Marathon and raise money for research and patient care at Mass. Eye and Ear. Although not in a position to run the Boston Marathon, Stephanie, a Mass. Eye and Ear patient, helped Diane to train for the big race.

An End to Blindness?
March 2015 (AARP)
Glaucoma sufferers apply medicated eye drops daily that slow the progression of their condition; however, it does not improve it. With seemingly little motivation to continue the perpetual process of applying the drops, a large portion of these individuals either forget, or discontinue applying them all together. This phenomenon has driven researchers to find an alternative. Mass. Eye and Ear ophthalmologist Joseph Ciolino, M.D., and Children's Hospital Boston colleague Daniel Kohane, M.D., have since developed a contact lens that administers the glaucoma medication itself, only requiring the user to cycle the lenses once a month.

Reducing Tumor Growth
Feb. 25, 2015 (Harvard.edu)
An overproduction of schwann cells in the inner ear may lead to the emergence of a tumor clinically referred to as a Vestibular Schwannoma. This tumor can result in hearing loss, tinnitus and difficulty maintaining balance. Researchers from the Harvard-MIT Program in Speech and Hearing Bioscience and Technology and Massachusetts Eye and Ear have recently demonstrated that salicylates, a class of non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), reduce the proliferation and viability of cultured vestibular schwannoma cells.

Fundraiser to Benefit Wells Couple
February 5, 2015 (Sea Coast Online)
Jason Hodgdon was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder this fall. He has since been treated at Mass. Eye and Ear—alongside numerous other facilities—that have left him and his wife Tracey struggling to keep up with his medical bills. So many individuals fall victim to this situation each year, fortunately for Jason, his caught the attention of Allison’s Restaurant, a local pub in Kennebunkport, Maine. On Feb. 7, “Allison’s” dedicated 100 percent of food and alcohol sales to benefit this couple’s financial trouble.

Sclafani Rallies After Injury to Return to the Ice
January 20, 2015 (South Coast Today)
Middleboro High School student Nick Sclafani was involved in a pellet gun accident late last summer and was subsequently treated at Mass. Eye and Ear for testing; his prognosis showed that he had a detached retina in his left eye. Now, a little over a year after being blinded in one eye, Sclafani has rejoined his hockey team, and despite being told that he would never see the ice again, was able to score his first goal at the varsity level.

Ophthalmologist Joins Mass. Eye and Ear, Waltham
January 18, 2015 (Waltham News Tribune)
Mass. Eye and Ear recently had Dr. Nahyoung Grace Lee join our hospital in both the Waltham and Boston locations. Dr. Lee attended Johns Hopkins for her undergraduate degree and medical school, and has completed two fellowships at Mass. Eye and Ear. She will be working full time in the Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery Service, with a specialty in Asian eyelid surgery. To make an appointment with Dr. Lee, call 617-573-5550.

Tyler Ritter and Joey McIntyre
January 14, 2015 (CBS News, Sarasota, Florida)
Joey McIntyre plays Gerard McCarthy on CBS’s new show, The McCarthy’s. He is also known for New Kids on the Block, and has guest-starred in shows such as “Boston Public”, “CSI: NY” and “Psych”. McIntyre is also a huge supporter of Mass. Eye and Ear and the Curing Kids Fund. He has participated in our Sense-ation! Gala for the past few years, and we are very grateful for his support!

CT Scans Performed During Maxillofacial Surgery are Rapid
January 9, 2015 (Medical Xpress)
Dr. David Shaye and colleagues at Mass. Eye and Ear have just completed a study regarding CT scans during oral, head and neck surgery. They have determined through a retrospective study that the average time for a CT scan during surgery is very quick, only 14.8 minutes. The most experienced surgeon averaged 3.78 minutes less than that. The authors of the study “recommend surgeons consider the use of intraoperative CT imaging for maxillofacial reconstruction, particularly in complex procedures."

Two New Stem Cell Techniques and Clinical Trials for Cornea Damage
January 7, 2015 (Drug Discovery & Development)
A team of researchers, including those from Mass. Eye and Ear, have successfully regrown a human cornea in a mouse subject. They created antibodies that found the ABCB5 receptor, which is a marker for limbal stem cells. These stem cells aid in the regrowth of human corneal tissue, but their loss is common and is one of the leading causes of blindness. Natasha Frank, of Harvard Medical School, said that “ABCB5 can serve as a first biomarker for specific isolation of limbal stem cells for therapeutic transplantation”, and that these stem cells are capable of re-growing a fully-functioning human cornea. Although this has only been proven in mice so far, the team is working to meet the requirements to bring it to a clinical trial.

Blocking Notch Pathway Boosts Sensory Hair Cell Regeneration to Restore Hearing
January 3, 2015 (Science Codex)
A team of researchers from Mass. Eye and Ear and Fudan University in China have figured out that by blocking the Notch pathway, they can restore hearing. Scientists have already known that by blocking this pathway, inner ear supporting cells can be converted to hair cells that promote hearing. These researchers also discovered that blocking the Notch pathway promotes cell division. According to Dr. Zheng-Yi Chen, of Mass. Eye and Ear, “Our work could have potential in leading to developing new strategies to achieve hair cell regeneration for hearing restoration."

Panel-Based Genetic Diagnostic Testing for Inherited Eye Diseases Is Accurate, More Sensitive Than Exome Sequencing
January 1, 2015 (Advance Healthcare Network)
Mass. Eye and Ear now offers a more accurate alternative to finding genetic vision disorders. The Genetic Eye Disease, or GEDi, test is able to successfully sequence 226 genes known to cause hereditary eye disorders. It has gone through multiple trials, proving that the test is both accurate and reproducible, which is something many other tests cannot show. "The results we obtained for the GEDi test have broad implications and show that panel-based testing focused on the specific genes associated with genetic conditions offers important advantages over whole exome sequencing," says Janey Wiggs, M.D., Ph.D., of Mass. Eye and Ear. These tests can be used to preserve vision, using techniques such as specialized gene therapy. The test is offered at Mass. Eye and Ear on a CLIA-certified basis.