Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Research is like a box of chocolates

This is Ben, and he is a living example of progress made in the field of vision research. Little Ben suffers from a visual disorder called strabismus, and faced growing up “cross-eyed” in a world that would have appeared blurred. Now, thanks to years of research and development, a simple corrective surgery exists that will allow Ben to experience a normal childhood.

Strabismus highlights advances in vision research because it is such a common condition, affecting approximately 4% of Americans. The disorder can be caused by a lack of coordination of the eye muscles, or from neurological damage in a brain area that controls eye movements. Surgical treatment involves shortening, lengthening, or changing the position of one or more of the eye muscles, and depending on the reason for the misalignment, strong eyeglasses may also improve the condition. Famous individuals with strabismus include Abraham Lincoln, Barbara Streisand, Forest Whittaker, and the existential philosopher, Sartre, who probably found the fact that his eyes were misaligned hopelessly meaningless.

Research provides important breakthroughs often when they are least expected, and the story behind developing a treatment for strabismus is a classic example. Beginning in the late 1960’s, a San Francisco ophthalmologist named Alan Scott began exploring ways to align the eyes of strabismic patients. Dr. Scott experimented with a variety of chemical procedures in an effort to partially paralyze the necessary eye muscle in order realign the eyes.

In 1973, Dr. Scott identified a particularly effective neurotoxic chemical called botulinum toxin type A (BTX-A), and by 1980, he was finding success using BTX-A to treat patients with strabismus. As it turns out, BTX-A, or BOTOX, is a temporary paralyzing agent, effective for only four to six months. Requiring patients to return for treatment two or three times a year presented many clinical obstacles and over time doctors focused on refining surgical rather than chemical procedures to correct strabismus. The value of a research discovery may be unapparent at the time it is made, as with the case of BOTOX and strabismus, a scientist may not know what they're going to get. While Dr. Scott’s discovery of BOTOX was only one link in a chain of research discoveries that today allow doctors to easily correct misaligned eyes, nearly all of Hollywood is grateful for his contributions.

Bookmark  and Share


  1. It's amazing how far science has brought us, but we still have a long way to go. Hopefully basic science research funding will grow in the future.

    And I noticed the new layout. It looks good. Clean and organized, with enough color to keep it from being bland.

  2. I was cross eyed as a kid! I had the surgery where you shorten the muscle on one eye. I got to stay home from school for a week and nap and eat ice cream. It was the life!

    Now as a grown-up sometimes if I am extremely tired I can start to feel my eye cross in again. It also happens when I don't wear my glasses for an extended amount of time (like when I am swimming). You can also see significant scarring if you look in the inside of my right eye (near my nose). Hopefully surgical methods are better now than they were in 1989!

  3. Interesting article. You never can tell where science research may lead.

  4. Thanks for sharing Melissa. Your eyes have always looked normal to me so in '89 some decent surgical techniques must have existed. Supposedly the younger you are when you have the corrective surgery the better your chance to have normal movement and vision.

  5. Very interesting! It's good to know that Botox was discovered for more than vanity purposes, although with HD TV ,Botox will always have a large group of users.

  6. Good stuff, Ryan.