(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.
Orientation marks a major step toward becoming a Roadrunner. It is a unique experience designed to welcome freshmen and transfers to UTSA and ensure a successful transition into college. They will learn about UTSA, prepare for their first semester and have fun meeting other students. There is also a special Family Orientation program too.
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
Come out and meet Dr. Ray Bateman, ARL South Cyber on-site Lead, and Kristin Schweitzer who form the nucleus of ARL South Cyber on our campus. They will give a brief overview of the Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and how it fits within the Army’s hierarchy. Morning session is 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Afternoon session is 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
John Peace Library (JPL 4.04.12C), Main Campus
The sympoisum will focus on the interface between aging and neurodegenerative diseases, will educate the wider research community about advancements in this fast-paced field and stimulate collaborative research in this area. Register online for this free event.
H-E-B University Center Ballroom (HUC 1.106), Main Campus
The 23rd International Conference on Historical Linguistics is offering four special panels open and free to the San Antonio public July 31-Aug. 3 to mark the tricentennial next year. The event is co-sponsored by UTSA Research.
Hotel Contessa, 306 W. Market St., San Antonio
Get ready for the fall 2017 semester at UTSA with a variety of fun and informational events.
Various locations, Main and Downtown Campuses
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