Okla. OD plays key role in NASA Eye Health Study on board International Space Station

March 28, 2013

A digital eye chart known as Acuity Pro invented by Elk City, Okla., optometric physician Dan Bintz, O.D., a member of the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians (OAOP) and chair of the AOA Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Project Team, and fellow Oklahoma optometric physician Jerry Carter, O.D., will be used in a scientific study conducted by NASA scheduled to take place on the International Space Station in April.  The two-year health study will begin shortly after the last three astronauts involved in Expedition 35 arrive at the International Space Station. They are set to launch on the Soyuz TMA-08M from Kazakhstan on March 28.

The study is focused on decreased visual acuity that astronauts seem to experience due to long-term exposure to microgravity while in space. This is the first experiment to investigate micro gravity-induced visual impairment/intracranial pressure or VIIP syndrome. According to NASA, about 20 percent of astronauts who have flown to the International Space Station have reported some type of vision changes with varying degrees of severity and permanence.

“Scientists are aware that astronauts have developed vision modifications while in space,” said Dr. Bintz. “In the past, this issue has not been able to be addressed until astronauts return to earth. Now, with Acuity Pro, NASA has the ability to monitor visual alterations in real time to determine when changes begin, how they progress and specific astronauts who are affected. Dr. Carter and I are proud to be a part of this research and for Oklahoma to be represented in such an important endeavor.”

NASA successfully uploaded Acuity Pro to the International Space Station earlier this year and it is now installed on all the laptops there.

“NASA first approached us last year with the idea of using Acuity Pro on the International Space Station,” said Dr. Carter. “They wanted a software product that would test acuity, contrast sensitivity and macular function so they would not have to add any existing equipment to an already crowded space station. Acuity Pro was the perfect solution.”

Acuity Pro was designed, created and written by Drs. Bintz and Carter and has been on the market since 2000. It was developed to replace the bulb projector used to check visual acuity. By using a computer, doctors can randomize the eye chart, vary the number of letters shown and perform many functions that bulb projectors cannot do. It is the industry leader in computer generated eye charts, and the same software on the space station is used in thousands of eye clinics all over the world.

“This is just another example of the amazing work being done by optometric physicians here in our state,” said Saundra Naifeh, chief executive officer of OAOP. “Not only are our members helping people all across Oklahoma with their eye health, but now astronauts in space!”

Dr. Bintz has practiced optometry in Elk City, Okla., since opening his practice in 1984. He is a past president for OAOP and served on the association’s board of directors and is a past chair of the Oklahoma Diabetes Coalition. Dr. Carter is a retired optometric physician who practiced in Bartlesville for 26 years. He participated as a Gold Standard doctor for the National Eye Institute’s Vision in Preschool Study and was an adjunct professor at the Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry (NSUOCO) for more than 20 years. Both Dr. Carter and Dr. Bintz are 1984 graduates of NSUOCO.

One comment

  1. So what exactly happens to the vision of astronauts in space?

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