Scientists on their Way to Finding Cure for Blindness

October 6, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. stepping stone /stɛpɪŋ stoʊn/ (n.) – something that aids the progress of achieving a certain goal
Example: Finding the cause of his blindness is a stepping stone in treating his condition.

2. optical /ˈɒptɪkəl/ (adj.) – referring to vision or sight
ExampleOptical researchers are trying to find cure for the eye disease.

3. degenerative /dɪˈdʒɛn ər ə tɪv, -əˌreɪ tɪv/ (adj.) – referring to the gradual, irreparable failure of an organ or body part due to a disease or symptom
Example: Cancer is a degenerative disease that still has no cure.

4. bionic /baɪˈɒn ɪk/ (adj.) – referring to the use of electronic devices as artificial parts or extensions of the human body
Example: Her bionic eyes allow her to see through walls.

5. inhibit /ɪnˈhɪb ɪt/ (v.) – to stop, prevent, or delay a process
Example: Wearing glasses inhibits blurred vision from getting worse.


Read the text below.
Advanced treatments for eye-related diseases may be a stepping stone to permanently curing blindness, scientists believe.

Three kinds of eye treatment have been improving the lives of blind patients, both young and old. These treatments include the bionic retina device, stem cell therapy, and gene therapy. Scientists and optical researchers are currently favoring these treatments as the best options to cure the most common retinal degenerative diseases.

Currently available in Europe and the United States, the bionic retina enables blind patients to get a visual idea of their surroundings through shapes and patterns. Through a camera attached to a pair of sunglasses, captured images are transferred to a tiny computer that transmits the data to a chip. The chip, surgically implanted into the eye, converts the data into signals interpreted by the brain as visual forms. At present, the device costs about 135,000 dollars.

Another treatment, gene therapy, has shown promising results in curing young patients. In one hospital in the United States, the treatment successfully restored the vision of 40 blind children. The therapy simply functions by replacing the dead genes in the cells of the retina with new genes through injection.

Finally, stem cell therapy is a progressing project wherein undeveloped cells can be nurtured into any type of human cell. Through this therapy, scientists have recently been able to grow retinal tissue that can sense light.

Though these treatments inhibit retinal degenerative diseases from becoming a permanent disability, scientists caution that these treatments are just the first step. Still, there is a long way to go in finding a cure for blindness.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         If you were suffering a retinal degenerative disease, which of the three treatments mentioned in the article would you choose? Why?
·         Among the three treatments, which do you think your country can benefit from the most? Why?

Discussion B

·         In your country, what is the most common degenerative disease (e.g. Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, Osteoporosis, etc.) that you would like scientists to focus on? Kindly explain your answer.
·         Why do you think finding cure for certain diseases is difficult?

October 6, 2014