(June 30, 2014) -- Researchers at UTSA are discovering that the current protective eyewear used by our U.S. armed forces might not be adequate to protect soldiers exposed to explosive blasts.
According to a recent study, ocular injuries now account for 13 percent of all battlefield injuries and are the fourth most common military deployment-related injury.
With the support of the U.S. Department of Defense, UTSA biomedical engineering assistant professor Matthew Reilly, distinguished senior lecture in geological sciences Walter Gray and biomedical engineering adjunct professor William E. Sponsel, M.D. have been collaborating with researchers at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at Joint Base San Antonio Fort Sam Houston and the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio to understand the unseen effects that can occur as a result of a blast injury.
In a basement laboratory at Fort Sam Houston military base, the research team has spent the last two years simulating Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blasts on postmortem pig eyes using a high-powered shock tube.
So far, they have discovered that the shock wave alone created by an IED, even in the absence of shrapnel or other particles, can cause significant damage to the eyes that could lead to partial or total blindness.
Perhaps the most striking discovery is that these blasts can damage the optic nerve, which transmits information from the eye to the brain. Optic nerve injuries occur even at low pressures and could be the cause of many visual deficits, which until now have been associated traumatic brain injuries.
"There has been considerable controversy surrounding whether primary blasts could damage the eye," shared Reilly. "No one had shown conclusive evidence before, perhaps because they weren't looking at the problem quite as closely as we have. We had some idea of what to look for based on results from computational models and now we have experimental data that supports this phenomenon."
This groundbreaking research will not only help physicians know what type of injuries to screen for and treat following a blast injury, but also create a reliable model to test various protective eyewear solutions that might prevent or reduce blast damage to the eyes.
Reilly has several family and friends who currently or previously serve in the military who have had various injuries.
"I wasn't in the military but I would like those who serve our country to be better protected in the field or give them better diagnostics when they are injured," he said. "I want to make sure their quality of life is as high as possible after they have been deployed. I am just trying to give back."
Moving forward, the research team plans to delve further into the link between the optic nerve and the brain in an effort to understand the causes and symptoms of traumatic brain injuries.
Learn more about the UTSA College of Engineering at engineering.utsa.edu.
The annual Student Affairs Conference provides invaluable professional development opportunities for all UTSA Student Affairs staff as well as faculty and staff throughout UTSA and other local institutions.
H-E-B Student Union Ballroom (HSU 1.104), Main Campus
Lisa Carrington Firmin, UTSA associate provost for veteran and military affairs, will deliver the keynote at this summit where veterans and professional leaders will share best practices regarding veteran-related opportunities.
The Club at Sonterra, 901 Sonterra Blvd., San Antnio
Conversations on Science and Art is hosted by UTSA Art Collection and UT Health San Antonio Research. It features an interview with artist, remarks by VP for Research Dr. Andrea Giuffrida, followed by a roundtable QA with curator Arturo Almeida.
South Texas Research Facility, Lobby 8403 Floyd Curl Dr. San Antonio
Campers in 9th grade through college will receive instruction and coaching on agility testing and position specific drills to refine and improve his skillset as a football player.
Recreational Field Complex, Main Campus
Inspired by UTSA's renowned Mexican Cookbook Collection, the evening features cuisine and spirits of celebrated chefs from San Antonio and Mexico.
Hotel Emma, 136 E. Grayson St., San Antonio
Experience a fun, interactive week at UTSA as new students and their families take the first steps to becoming a Roadrunner.
Various locations, Main Campus
Campers 6-12 years old will enjoy the summer learning to read, write and speak the Chinese language. They also will learn about the Chinese culture such as martial arts, painting and drawing, arts and crafts and more.
Confucius Institute at UTSA (MB 1.208), Main Campus
Campers 7th grade and up will focus on individual development with emphasis on simplifying and teaching the specific skills and movements associated with the game. Serving, passing, setting, attacking and individual defense will all be covered. In addition, team concepts will be emphasized.
Convocation Center, Main Campus
The University of Texas at San Antonio is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge through research and discovery, teaching and learning, community engagement and public service. As an institution of access and excellence, UTSA embraces multicultural traditions and serves as a center for intellectual and creative resources as well as a catalyst for socioeconomic development and the commercialization of intellectual property - for Texas, the nation and the world.
To be a premier public research university, providing access to educational excellence and preparing citizen leaders for the global environment.
We encourage an environment of dialogue and discovery, where integrity, excellence, inclusiveness, respect, collaboration and innovation are fostered.