07/19/2012 01:50 pm ET

Macular Degeneration: Chemistry Nobel Laureate Develops Tool To Diagnose Visual Distortions

By Mariette DiChristina
(Click here for the original article and podcast)

Macular degeneration causes visual distortion and even complete loss of sight. When the wife of chemistry Nobel laureate Walter Kohn was diagnosed with macular degeneration, he wanted to do something. I spoke with him at the recent Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany.

“We are developing a corrective device, including interaction with the patient, who is following a certain routine and who tells us his perceptions that arise.”

A macular degeneration patient looks at a completely regular grid on a computer screen. But because of the condition, the grid will appear distorted. The patient uses a mouse to adjust the grid to appear normal.

“We will receive from the patient an edited piece of graph paper. And from the way the patient edits it, we can tell what the distortions are that he perceives and from these we can then develop devices that correct his distortions.”