Lab-Grown ‘Mini-Eyes’ Show How Color Vision Develops – November 2018 Newsletter

My personal Introduction of this amazing scientific research to you.

Those who know me well, will recall that I have always told you that the human eye is fascinating and yet academics, neuro-scientists, scientific researchers and other experts in the ophthalmic world did not know everything about the human eye.  Studies continue.  This article highlights this fact but at the same time brings us exciting and amazing new detail about how the human eye in the foetus  develops whilst still in the womb.  The article is exactly as published in a journal, LIVE SCIENCE on 14 October 2018.

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | October 11, 2018

If you’ve recently admired a sunset, a rainbow, or the reds and golds of autumn foliage, you can thank the colour-detecting cone cells in your eyes for your ability to see those vivid hues.  And now, scientists have figured out how those colour cells develop, by coaxing stem cells to grow into tiny blobs of eye tissue in the lab.

In the human eye, there are three types of cone cells that regulate colour vision, sensing red, blue or green light, but little is known about how these specialized cells emerge in the eyes of a growing foetus.  However, researchers recently provided a glimpse of these formative mechanisms, by growing organoids — very small, primitive organs — that were made of eye cells, so they could observe the cells as they developed.

Though the tiny organoids didn’t look like fully formed eyes, they contained photoreceptors that respond to light, and the cells (and their genes) still behaved as cone cells do in a human eye. Remarkably, the colour-sensing cells in the lab-grown eye tissue organized themselves as those cells do in a foetus, with blue-light-sensing cone cells showing up first, followed by cells that sense green and then red light. Experiments with these cells offered a first glimpse of the mechanisms that produce our unique colour vision, the scientists reported in a new study. [Body Parts Grown in the Lab]

Blue cone cells were already known to develop before their green and red neighbours. But it was unclear why they appeared in that order and what prompted the cells “to choose those fates” as blue, green or red, said lead study author Kiara Eldred, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Biology at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Maryland.

“We weren’t sure what in a development context cued those cells to be different from each other,” Eldred told Live Science.

The scientists directed stem cells to become eye tissue, but exactly what type of eye tissue is determined by the cells themselves, said study co-author Robert Johnston Jr., an assistant professor in the JHU Department of Biology.

“They just develop and grow as a retina in a dish,” Johnston told Live Science.

A retinal organoid — shown here at day 43 of growth — doesn’t look much like an eye, but it enables scientists to observe how eye cells grow and interact.

Credit: Johns Hopkins University

Because the researchers wanted their growing mini-eyes to follow the same timetable as the eyes of a foetus in the womb, they monitored the retinal tissues’ development for nine months.

What’s more, prior research in mice and zebrafish hinted that the thyroid hormone helped to trigger the development of cells linked to colour vision, Eldred said.  To test that, the scientists used the gene-editing tool CRISPR (CRISPR/Cas9 & Targeted Genome Editing: New Era in Molecular Biology. The development of efficient and reliable ways to make precise, targeted changes to the genome of living cells is a long-standing goal for biomedical researchers) to manipulate the cone cells’ receptors for the hormone, to see how that would change their growth patterns.

They found that the levels of a thyroid hormone that were present at different stages in the eye’s development played a big part in shaping the cells’ identity. When the researchers disabled the receptors for the hormone, they grew mini-eyes that had only blue-sensing cells, capable of seeing only blue light.  And when they flooded the organoids with extra thyroid hormone early in the growth process — before blue cells could form — all the colour cells developed as red and green, the researchers reported.

“That told us that we understood the mechanism enough that we could grow human retinal cells in a dish, and we could tell them what kind of cells we wanted to make,” Johnston told Live Science.

In addition to revealing secrets of colour vision, lab-grown eye tissue may prove useful for studying other aspects of sight that are unique to humans and could provide insights into the treatment of blindness and glaucoma, Johnston said.

We are pleased to welcome the following new students to BHA School of Lighting:

  • Desmond Avenant, Eurolux, Cape Town – BHASL001: Foundation Lighting Course
  • Lorraine De Bruyn, Halo Solutions, Johannesburg – BHASL003C19: Diploma in Illumination Engineering
  • Etienne Kayembe, Goel Electrical, Cape Town – BHASL003C19: Diploma in Illumination Engineering
  • Johan Massyn, Lighting Innovations, Johannesburg – BHASL003C19: Diploma in illumination Engineering
  • Jean-Paul Muambayi, Lok and Life Electrical, Cape Town – BHASL003C19: Diploma in Illumination Engineering

Your fellow students and I wish all who celebrate birthdays during November, a very happy birthday!

  • Nicholas Joubert, Pretoria – 8 November
  • Reginald Khoza, Cape Town – 8 November
  • Enzo Manna, Pretoria – 11 November
  • Philip Nicholson, East London – 14 November
  • Desmond Avenant, Cape Town – 15 November
  • Retief Coetzer, Johannesburg – 15 November
  • Zelibanzi Daniel, East London – 24 November

Well done to those students who advanced to 2nd Year.  To those students preparing to write examinations, prepare well and good luck!

The following students recently completed their 1st year examinations and advanced to 2nd year:

  • Annette Victor, Cape Town
  • Andre Roosenschoon, Durban
  • Clint Davids, Cape Town
  • Lynette Jeppe, Bloemfontein
  • Mark Walsh, Windhoek, Namibia

The following students will soon sit for their 2nd year final examinations:

  • Scott Williamson, Johannesburg
  • Tapuwa Makoni, Ongwediva, Namibia
  • Francois du Preez, Pretoria

The following students will sit for their 1st year examinations:

  • Rizlyn Asuncion Barbon, Dubai, U.A.E
  • Eric Ceba, Port Elizabeth
  • Jade De Pontes, Johannesburg
  • Mduduzi Zulu, Pretoria
  • Pieter Meyer, Port Elizabeth

Live Lecture – online lecture to introduce the features of RELUX Desktop lighting design software

When: Thursday 22 November 2018

Time: 17:00 – 18:00

How: Use your link that you were sent.  You can only join the Lecture 10 minutes before the start.

Lighting Matters: Fourth Industrial Revolution – Indoor Positioning Systems

To read Phil’s monthly column featured in EE Publishers’ Vector Magazine click the link here –

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South African Business Prepares for AI Based Collaboration

Yes, I know, some of you are asking what is AI?  If you have not already Googled it, AI stands for Artificial Intelligence.  It is one of those things that is considered to be part of the 4th Industrial Revolution, a disruptor.

There is a misconception that when AI is introduced in companies, jobs will be on the line and positions will be made redundant.  Whilst it may ultimately mean that some positions will become redundant, the process could be managed with natural attrition when employees retire, get promoted or leave the company in search of greener employment opportunities. However, the opposite appears to be true.

Some of you may be familiar with Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Teams, Yammer and Sharepoint.  These are part of AI.  BHA Lighting and BHA School of Lighting use these already to great advantage.  They are easy to use and are part of a single software package.  Other AI technologies include Moodle, the software that we use for e-learning and the 19 courses that we offer.

AI, the internet and the many social media platforms have shrunk the world.  We are no longer dependent on pure telecommunications, our smartphones are no longer only for communicating by telephone.  Now we have Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, WeChat, SnapChat, Instagram, Twitter and more.  They have become part of our daily lives.  And then of course there is Google which is probably the greatest example of AI which you probably did not realise.  Google is able to suggest content that you will probably be interested in and much more.  Then there is another part of Google.  Ask Google using your voice if you have Google Assistant installed by simply starting your sentence “Hi Google”or “Hallo Google” followed by your question.  Whether it’s your choice of music (paid content) or any other question instead of typing on the keyboard.  I often use it whilst I am working.

The experts say that AI works best when humans and machines work together.  Take banking today, your bank actually does not want you to use the branch.  All banking services for FNB are now available on your personal profile using internet or online banking which can be accessed from any device wherever you are in the world.  FNB already use AI to perform routine functions and their human employees perform the more important and more complex individual tasks.

Accenture one of the world’s leading IS (Information Systems) and IT (Information Technology) companies which was No 2 in the Global 100 Best Corporate Citizens List for 2018, No 288 in the Forbes Global 2000 List for 2018, No 316 in the Fortune Global 500 List for 2018 and No 9 in the DiversityInc Top Companies for Diversity for 2018.  On the subject of AI in South Africa when asked if South Africa was ready?, They answered that close to 80% of South African executives acknowledged the benefits of AI to their businesses.

CLEVVA, a leading AI technology provide said that South African business are catching up quickly, that they are rapidly overcoming the limited integration of legacy systems and that within the next 5 to 10 years, most companies will have adopted AI.

The NEW 2019 curriculum for the Diploma in Illumination will position students to integrate lighting designs which incorporate the latest technologies and control systems such as Power over Ethernet (PoE), Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) and Visible Light Communication (VLC) which will enable large volumes of data to be transferred fast and efficiently to enhance the AI within the sysetms of companies.

Some Insight into the Development of a New Curriculum

I have recently been asked on a few occasions, what process I go through when developing a new curriculum.  I thought that it would be of interest to you if I shared this with you.

As background, some of you may or may not know that I study and conduct research into the latest technologies, both in lighting and control technologies.  I also study via online overseas university courses and then what I consider as extremely important, I read extensively. My reading includes topics such as the latest lighting design techniques, the latest international standards and practices which includes purchasing the necessary documentation from overseas.  It is only with this as background and applied knowledge that I can begin to start considering when the time is right to introduce a NEW curriculum.  I also have conversations with many of my old associates at Thorn Lighting, UK and also many other overseas experts in the field of lighting design.  I also check with my alma mater to see the direction that they are planning to move or change curricula and also how The Institution of Lighting Professionals and CIBSE (Chartered  Institute of Building Service Engineers) the future of lighting education.

Once I have been through that process, I am ready to begin.

The structure of the course continues to be based on the building block principle.  Like every building, students also require a solid foundation.  This is fundamental to our courses.

I carefully consider the continued relevance and importance of teaching about the old technology light sources and new content or information to be included in existing modules.  The following step is where NEW subjects are considered for inclusion in the course curriculum. This is extremely important so that the Diploma in Illumination Engineering remains the best and most up to date in the world.  The future of the enrolled and future students alike will require them to be at the pinnacle of their profession after graduation.  Of course they will need to gain practical experience in the real world of lighting.

The next step being the structuring of the curriculum in a logical and manageable way is the most difficult.  That is to the benefit of students.

You may think that this is a fairly quick process.  On the contrary, whilst I have studied, conducted further research and been reading every year, the process described above actually took about 8 months.

The curriculum was made known during late July 2018.  It was only then that the real hard work began.  Where existing manual content could be used, those manuals were either extensively revised or were completely re-written.  In several instances, manuals were combined into single manuals.  Of course, completely new manuals are being written for the new subjects which are taught during the second year.

As you will appreciate, the revision, rewriting and new writing of manuals takes months to ensure the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the content.

Each step of the way per module, the Quiz and examination have to be developed including the answer mark allocation sheet.  This is vital to maintain consistency of marking which assures students that they are all treated equally well.

Of course, one of the most difficult tasks is checking my own writing and spelling.  Fortunately, Daniel and a graduate of the original diploma course do this for me.  One often does not spot errors of one’s own work.

The next long phase is uploading the manuals, Quiz questions to the Online Question Bank, the examinations and then embedding all of the additional resources which include both documentary and video resources for which our courses have become so well known.  It is the content plus the additional resources which enrich the e-learning experience.

I am confident that our students will continue to play a leading role in Illumination Engineering in South Africa.  They will ensure that the profession lives on and continues to play a vital role in lighting for major projects throughout the world wherever they live and work.



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