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Smart phones turn eye disease detectors

Smartphones are now being used more routinely in ophthalmology to document patients’ ocular conditions.

Commercial retinal or fundus cameras can cost tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars, making the technology out of reach for smaller ophthalmic practices and to physicians in third-world countries.

In a recent study, Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers describe the relatively simple technique of fundus photography in human and rabbit eyes using a smartphone, an inexpensive app for the smartphone, and instruments that are readily available in an ophthalmic practice.

Previously described techniques of fundus imaging often proved difficult to repeat, partly because video capture using Apple’s built-in camera app in the iPhones cannot independently control the focus and the exposure during filming, which results in glare and poor image quality.

“Our technique provides a simpler and higher quality method to more consistently produce excellent images of a patient’s fundus,” senior author Shizuo Mukai, M.D., Mass. Eye and Ear retina specialist and Harvard Medical School associate professor of Ophthalmology, said.

New hope for sufferers of thyroid cancer

Patients with advanced thyroid cancer have for many years faced bleak prospects and no viable treatment options.

But now, building on recent discoveries about the genetics and cell signaling pathways of thyroid tumors, researchers are developing exciting new weapons against the disease, using kinase inhibitors that target tumor cell division and blood vessels.

 Two recent clinical trials led by a researcher from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania showcase the great promise of these new approaches.

The first study provides additional data from the phase III DECISION trial of the drug sorafenib, a kinase inhibitor already approved for treatment of kidney and liver cancer, which was presented as a plenary during the 2013 annual American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting.

In the newly released findings, lead author Marcia Brose, MD, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of Otorhinolarlyngology: Head and Neck Surgery and the division of Hematology/Oncology in the Abramson Cancer Center, and her colleagues examined the effectiveness of sorafenib on thyroid cancers that harbor BRAF and RAS mutations.

Chimps’ memory better than humans

A study by a Japanese researcher has revealed that Chimpanzees are brainier that humans.

Tetsuro Matsuzawa, a professor at Kyoto University’s Primate Research Institute in Inuyama, has gained unprecedented insights into the workings of the primate and human mind, the Guardian reported.

During a short-term memory test which was conducted publically in 2007, Ayumu, a 13-year-old chip, demonstrated amazing powers of recall and easily beat her human competitors, who had been in training for months.

For the tests, Ai, 36-year-old chimp, and Ayumu, and two other pairs of a mother and offspring, were shown the numerals 1 to 9 spread randomly across a computer screen and their task was to touch the numbers in ascending order.

In order to complicate matters, the game was altered so that as soon as the chimps touched the digit 1, the remaining eight were immediately masked by white squares, therefore to complete the exercise, they had to remember the location of each concealed number and, again, touch them in the correct order.

In another even harder version, five numbers appeared on the screen before turning into white squares.

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