The Charles F. Prentice award lecture 2009: Crystalline lens research and serendipity in science

Optom Vis Sci. 2010 Sep;87(9):622-30. doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e3181e87d8b.


Whether it is called serendipity or creativity, the process of scientific discovery is not one that lends itself to advance planning or programming, nor does it lend itself to an emphasis solely on applied research, research with industrial partners, or large teams of researchers because researchers must rely on intuition and the capacity to move quickly in new directions. Studies in my laboratory began with efforts to relate lens embryonic development to lens optical performance in a variety of vertebrate species. The initial direction concerned the optics of the fish eye, a system in which a spherical lens is essentially the only refractive component of the eye and one in which accommodation takes place by means of lens movement. This in turn led to an interest in how amphibious animals cope with the refractive transition that takes place when moving from air to water and vice versa. The development of a super accommodative ability in some diving birds is one adaptation that was explored. These curiosity-driven efforts led in turn to the development of a scanning laser system that provided a tool that can be used to evaluate the process of cataract development, either on the basis of in vivo exposure to chemicals or electromagnetic radiation and subsequent analysis of the excised lens or to the in vitro study of the lens in long-term whole lens culture experiments. The same approach has also been used as an in vitro ocular toxicology assay to develop sensitive in vitro methods to reduce regulatory dependence on the use of live animals. Finally, these applied directions in turn created new basic knowledge concerning the morphology and physiology of eye tissue organelles, particularly the morphology, distribution, and dynamic properties of the mitochondria found in the lens and in the retinal pigment epithelium.

PMID:20581727 | DOI:10.1097/OPX.0b013e3181e87d8b