Novelty contact lenses 'can cause sight loss'

Woman wearing snake eye contact lensesImage copyright Getty Images Image caption They may make you look creepy, but there are risks, experts say

Eye experts are warning of the risks of wearing novelty contact lenses at Halloween, saying they can cause nasty infections and scratches to the eyes.

Cosmetic contact lenses are often sold in joke and fancy-dress shops and on websites, but they come without instructions on safe use.

Eye-health professionals say novelty lenses should never be shared, stored in tap water or kept in overnight.

In extreme cases, this can lead to impaired vision and sight loss.

The Association of Optometrists said its members often saw people with eye problems after wearing novelty lenses.

Image copyright Association of Optometrists Image caption Novelty lenses can cause serious infections in the eyes

It said partygoers should wear only lenses sold with the supervision of a registered eye health professional.

Mr Badrul Hussain, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said he treated patients every year, including children under 16, who had developed eye conditions after wearing the contact lenses.

He said eye problems tended to increase around Halloween.

"Some of the cases we see, like patients sharing lenses with friends, wearing the same pair year after year well past the expiry date, and storing them in tap water, have devastating effects," he said.

"Not knowing the basics of using contact lenses safely can put you at higher risk of developing painful eye injuries and, in the worst cases, risk of permanent sight loss."...

How to use novelty contact lenses safely

  • Make sure a registered optician checks the lenses fit safely
  • Keep lenses clean by using the recommended contact-lens solution
  • Don't keep lenses in all night
  • Don't swap them or share them with other people
  • Don't let them come into contact with water, in the shower or swimming pool
  • Know the law - it is illegal to sell contact lenses without the supervision of a registered professional

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Protein 'can stop viruses developing'

scientist Image caption The Hira protein could have a fundamental role to play in combating both viruses and cancer

Researchers at the University of the West of Scotland have discovered a protein that can stop viruses developing.

The team had already established that the same protein can suppress cancer.

Now the fight is on to fully understand how it works in the hope of turning the laboratory research into a treatment.

The protein is called Hira.Technically it is a histone chaperone complex, but it is easier to understand in terms of what it can do.

Three years ago Dr Taranjit Singh Rai and colleagues at the Beatson cancer institute and Glasgow University reported that Hira could suppress the uncontrolled division of cells that causes cancer.

So far, so exciting.But in the course of that research Dr Rai spotted something intriguing.

Image copyright University of the West of Scotland Image caption Uninfected cells (left) and infected cells (right).The bright dots are Hira proteins concentrating to fight the viral infection

"If you want to study cancer you use viruses to deliver the mutations into the cells," he says.

"But every time when I used to use viruses, this protein Hira moved to a new place.Which made me think maybe it has something to do with viruses.

"But because I was doing a cancer project it was at the back of my mind."

But not any more.

Common cold

Now working at the University of the West of Scotland, Dr Rai and his colleagues have now established the same Hira protein combats viruses too.

There are millions of viruses out there, whose sole purpose is to replicate by getting inside the living cells of organisms like us.

The so-called common cold isn't as common as billed as it can be any one of more than 200 different viruses.That is why science hasn't found a cure for it yet.

But in the lab they have established that the Hira protein has a role to play in the anti-viral fight.

As Dr Rai explains, they did it by using specially-bred mice capable of having the Hira protein "knocked out" of their genome.

Image caption Dr Taranjit Singh Rai has been leading an international team of researchers

"The proof of the pudding is when you eat it," he said."So we had a biological organism in which we could actually switch this protein off wherever we want.

"So we switched these proteins off...and these organisms were very prone to herpes viruses."

So the Hira protein could have a fundamental role to play in combating both viruses and cancer.

Where can we get some?The good news is, we've got it already.Hira is present in greater or lesser amounts in every cell in our bodies.

The older we get, the more Hira builds up in our cells, suggesting it also plays an important role in how they age and die.

The trick in using it to fight disease may lie in increasing Hira levels in our cells.But to do that a way will have to be found to use a protein which binds extremely tightly to our DNA.

"I think what pharmaceutical companies might be interested in is how can we boost levels of this protein," Dr Rai said.

"Because if you have more of this protein you can actually tackle the viruses better."

Major caveat

Dr Rai has led an international study that involves not just the University of the West of Scotland but the Beatson cancer institute, Glasgow University and collaborators in Cardiff and California.

Support has come from Cancer Research UK and the results are published in the journal Nucleic Acids Research.

But there is a major caveat here.This is fundamental research, still very much confined to the laboratory.

Image caption It could be several years before the research can move out of the lab and into clinics and hospitals

Dr Rai says it's necessary to "step back a bit".

"We really don't understand the real cause of the common cold.

"You go to a GP and they say 'oh it will be fine in seven to 10 days'.We don't even know the cure for that.

"So I think we really need to understand how these viruses operate, how they hijack the cellular machinery.

"And what we have found is one big component of that cellular machinery which actually prevents the virus from integrating into the genome."

It is going to take some time, probably years, before this work can move out of the lab and into clinics and hospitals.

But the researchers are excited - and confident Hira will one day be the basis of a new approach in medicine....

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Women 'deserve apology' over vaginal mesh implants


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Media captionStephanie and Peter Williams say it's made it "impossible" for them to be intimate

Women left in permanent pain and unable to walk, work or have sex because of vaginal mesh implants deserve an apology, a senior MP has said.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, chairman of the health committee, said some claim they did not consent to having the device fitted and were unaware of the risks.

MPs also called for an inquiry into the implants which are used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and incontinence.

The medicines regulator says most women have a positive experience with them.

Earlier this year, the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme revealed that more than 800 women were taking legal action[1] against the NHS and the makers of vaginal mesh implants.

The implants, usually made from synthetic polypropylene, are intended to repair damaged or weakened tissue.

'Clear failings'

While they have been used successfully in many other parts of the body, they appear to react differently when inserted in the abdomen, leading to some women being "cut" - and once problematic, they can be very difficult, sometimes impossible, to remove.

In a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, Conservative MP and GP Dr Wollaston said there were "very clear failings" that had been "allowed to continue for so long and at the heart of that it has been the inadequacy of clinical trials, recording and consent".

She said mesh should be retained as an option where alternative procedures may result in worse outcomes or complications.

But she said there had to be a guarantee that "proper" clinical trials would be carried out as the products had been introduced and marketed "aggressively" without "adequate" trials.

"Fundamentally, at the heart of this is, there's an absence of data, and I'm afraid there's been cavalier practice.

"We cannot allow this to continue in the future and I think the women who have been affected deserve an apology, they deserve recognition of the extent of this and the delays in which this has been recognised and has been taken forward."

'Thousands affected'

Calling for a full public inquiry, Labour's Emma Hardy urged the government to suspend operations using the implants while a "full retrospective and mandatory audit of all interventions using mesh" was carried out.

Ms Hardy said "thousands" of women had been adversely affected by mesh implants.

"We know these devices are regulated by the European Union - I hope the minister will make a comment on how the government proposes to take this forward after we leave the European Union, and at the heart of it to ensure the safety of women is prioritised," she added.

Image caption Mesh implants are used to treat organ prolapse and urinary incontinence

Paul Masterton, Conservative MP for East Renfrewshire, said his party in Scotland - with Labour - had "stood firmly behind " those affected.

"Please suspend this procedure - if you're not convinced enough evidence is there, suspend it while you gather it together," he said.

"Mesh is rapidly becoming one of the great global health scandals and I'd implore all of us in this place to do what we can to protect women from this potentially devastating procedure, and to ensure our nation becomes an example to others in how to achieve justice for all those who have been broken by mesh."

The Labour MP for Alyn and Deeside, Mark Tami, spoke about a constituent's suffering and called it a "national scandal".

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has previously said it was "committed to help address the serious concerns raised by some patients"....

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Dyslexia link to eye spots confusing brain, say scientists

DyslexiaImage copyright Science Photo Library Image caption People with dyslexia have difficulty learning to read, write or spell

French scientists say they may have found a potential cause of dyslexia which could be treatable, hidden in tiny cells in the human eye.

In a small study they found that most dyslexics had dominant round spots in both eyes - rather than in just one - leading to blurring and confusion.

UK experts said the research was "very exciting" and highlighted the link between vision and dyslexia.

But they said not all dyslexics were likely to have the same problem.

People with dyslexia have difficulties learning to read, spell or write despite normal intelligence.

Often letters appear to move around and get in the wrong order and dyslexic people can have problems distinguishing left from right.

Human beings have a dominant eye in the same way that people have a dominant left or right hand.

Shape of spots

In the University of Rennes study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists looked into the eyes of 30 non-dyslexics and 30 dyslexics.

They discovered differences in the shape of spots deep in the eye where red, green and blue cones - responsible for colour - are located.

In non-dyslexics, they found that the blue cone-free spot in one eye was round and in the other eye it was oblong or unevenly shaped, making the round one more dominant.

But in dyslexic people, both eyes had the same round-shaped spot, which meant neither eye was dominant.

This would result in the brain being confused by two slightly different images from the eyes.

Researchers Guy Ropars and Albert le Floch said this lack of asymmetry "might be the biological and anatomical basis of reading and spelling disabilities".

They added:"For dyslexic students, their two eyes are equivalent and their brain has to successively rely on the two slightly different versions of a given visual scene."

No single cause

Prof John Stein, dyslexia expert and emeritus professor in neuroscience at the University of Oxford, said having a dominant spot in one eye meant there were better connections between the two sides of the brain and therefore clearer vision.

He said the study was "really interesting" because it stressed the importance of eye dominance in reading.

But he said the research gave no indication of why these differences occurred in some people's eyes.

He said the French test appeared to be more objective than current tests, but was unlikely to explain everyone's dyslexia.

Dyslexia is usually an inherited condition which affects 10% of the population, but environmental factors are also thought to play a role.

"No one problem is necessary to get dyslexia and no one problem is behind it," Prof Stein said....

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