Fall 1994 Mission

Good ideas

Ways the Health Science Center is helping people

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For your eyes only

Diabetics run a high risk of eye disease and blindness so they usually get frequent exams. But what happens between visits?

A professor has patented a device that lets the patient to monitor his or her own eyes at home at any time. Raymond Applegate, OD, PhD, professor of ophthalmology, developed the vascular entoptoscope with Arthur Bradley, PhD, from Indiana University's School of Optometry.

Dr. Applegate is running federally-funded trials in San Antonio to determine whether patients can use the device accurately on their own. If so, he plans to develop a hand-held model for home use.

The patient peers into a eyepiece that conducts light into the retina. The patient sees a shadow outline of the retina's blood vessels. Any abnormalities can mean trouble. "Diabetics routinely receive eye exams every six months, but the vascular makeup of the eye can change for the worse between visits," said Dr. Applegate. "A hand-held device would give the patient a cost-effective way to monitor their eyes as often as need be."

Hip to be smooth

Build a better hip and the world will beat a path to your door. Scientists in San Antonio say they are less than five years away from building a better artificial hip.

More than 2 million Americans have artificial hips. The problem is the hip usually begins to wear out after 10 to 15 years. A failing hip is painful.

C. Mauli Agrawal, PhD, and Jay D. Mabrey, MD, assistant professors of orthopaedics, are part of a multidisciplinary team from their department and Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio that is developing a hip to far outlast 15 years' worth of wear.

Friction is the enemy of hip sockets. The team is developing a specially treated polyethylene for the socket. The formula for reducing friction is promising. Dr. Mabrey said the hip "doesn't even seem to begin to wear after 10 million movements," the equivalent of 10 years of walking.

'Astro-newts' do a balancing act

Can a baby born in the weightlessness of space adapt to Earth's gravity? Newts hatched in space may yield an answer.

The menagerie of "astro-newts" was hatched during the space shuttle Columbia's mission last July. Researchers from the Health Science Center and their collaborators in Japan now are studying the salamanders.

Image "We're interested in gravity-sensing organs located in the inner ears of many animals, including newts and humans," said Michael Wiederhold, Phd, associate professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. Dr. Wiederhold was widely quoted and interviewed by media throughout the world during the shuttle mission. Humans help keep their balance with sensors inside the inner ear. Thousands on microscopic stones suspended in inner-ear fluid move in response to gravity's pull. The stones interact with the sensors, which transmit information to the brain.

The ensuing research is designed to help scientists better understand the stones and how they contribute to balance problems among humans.

Soap opera in the waiting room

Will Hector follow the doctor's advice about his diabetes? Is Irma's failing eyesight a sign of disease? Can Norma take care of herself after her stroke?

Tune in at a doctor's waiting room, nursing home or civic function in San Antonio to find out. The Health Science Center's soap opera, "An Ounce of Prevention," now is playing locally and in 26 states and Mexico.

The 15-minute episodes dramatize real-life health stories with the goal of promoting public education. Designed to reach Hispanics, the shows are produced on campus in English and Spanish.

"It feels great to know these videos are making even a little bit of a difference," said Carolyn Marshall, PhD, co-producer with the Health Science Center's South Texas Geriatric Education Center.

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