John R. Trevithick, PhD, A Canadian Vision Research Pioneer Leaves Us at Age 82.

It is my sad task to note the passing of John Trevithick, PhD, at age 82, at his home in London Ontario. (2/20/2018)

John is well known to many ARVO (Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology) and ISER (International Society for Eye Research) members, since the early 70’s as one of the first researchers who took up the lens as a model for cell differentiation. A pioneer in the explorations of cAMP in N. Crassa, he sought to explore this signaling molecule in mammalian cell differentiation. The lens epithelial to fiber cell transition continues during the entire life of the mammalian lens.

            Along the way John explored cataract mechanisms of course but as a biochemist he always was interested in the fundamental knowledge of cell physiology and biochemistry that could be revealed. His lab was one of the first groups to optimize culture media conditions to permit the study of whole living lenses in tissue culture. This permitted the precise manipulation of external and internal chemistry and was used to correlate research done with diabetic rat models and the RCS model. Interesting effects on the RCS lens posterior opacity caught his attention in this model, where degeneration was occurring in the retina. Along with diabetic cataract models his group explored the contribution of antioxidant biochemistry to degenerative processes in the lens and retina. Some surprising findings, of dramatically slowing cataract formation and other degenerations by supplementing endogenous antioxidants resulted in a couple Nature publications. I joined his lab in 1988 as a PhD student, at the University of Western Ontario.

            John took me, and other students, to many meetings around the world and he spent a lot of care teaching us to repeat work and make sure we published reproducible data. He let us write papers early and we tended to graduate with a few publications already completed. With John, I enjoyed discovering that the diabetic rat lens was iso-osmolar for several weeks by dumping Taurine and free amino acids to perfectly balance the increase in sorbitol. Then this amino acid deficiency led to the loss of GSH, ATP production, ion transport capacity, and finally the loss of fluid regulation. This was a lesson John taught many of us, that if you delve into the biochemistry of even an old model system, you will likely find some new knowledge. Do not assume that a decade of literature on a topic has documented everything important.

            John was Emeritus professor of Biochemistry and had continued also as a professor in Kinesiology, working to explore the effects of exercise on the eye in normal and diabetic rats, working with Tom Dzialoszynski and Earl Nobel. Most recently they spent the last several years on space radiation effects upon the lens. That work, funded by the Canadian Space Agency, involves trips to UBC and the use of their busy cyclotron facility. John, always curious to the very end and finding ways to fund vision research in Canada, which does not have a vision-focused funding category as we have in the USA.

If any members of the vision research community have a memory of John Trevithick they would like to share, please email to me at

Tom and I are planning to write a short memorial paper about John and his contributions to vision science in Canada and internationally. Many of us owe our thanks to John for the time he devoted to ARVO, ISER, vision science and teaching the next generation of scientists.

A mostly complete list of John Trevithick’s publications in PubMed are found here:

John Trevithick Papers in PubMed

Don’t Use PubMed as a Journal Whitelist

An important post from the Scholarly Open Access blog by Jeffrey Beall, University of Colorado. Why you cannot trust many publications in PubMed searches these days, but how to confirm trusted journal list by limiting your searching to just Medline. Know the difference. Peer-reviewed science journals appearing in the Medline database are curated by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the NIH (National Institutes of Health).

There is very little requirement for a journal to get its content indexed in the PubMed database however, and there is no curation process by the NLM.

kpmitton wants to share Happy Mole Day 10/23 from 6:02am to 6:02pm

#6.022×10^23 #happyMoleday chemists, biochemists, physicists, science students Oct 23 #1023 @oaklandu @AndrewLocal4

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The Science Rant: Cherry Picking and Bad Pharma: how Patients and Doctors are fooled by incomplete information on prescription drugs.

Bad Science is really not doing science right at all. If you cut corners or do not repeat an experiment to make sure it is reproducible, you can end up with egg on your face as a scientist. At best the target for teasing by your colleagues, or at worst, a person that is never trusted again in the science world.

Bad science may also occur when money is part of the motivation equation in the form of “for profit”. Unfortunately, that is the context where commercial Pharma research occurs, including their clinical trials. With shareholders to pay, there is a strong executive pressure to get the product developed and flying out of the pharmacy on Doctor’s prescription pads.

For all of us as Patients, this can have bad consequences. For our Doctors, they may be making prescription decisions based on information that is skewed or incomplete. They can be in a position where they cannot even get the full story on many of the drugs they must choose from. The Pharmacist will be in the same position as your Doctor. The problem that is keeping all three of us in the dark is reporting bias on the part of the drug developer. That is, under reporting of negative trial results, and basic cherry picking of trial results.

Read more about these problems in my blog post at

If you are a medical student or practicing doctor now, how do you know the drugs you are prescribing actually work? Turns out you might often not have the full truth about all clinical trials pertaining to the drug in question. I recommend you read more here:

Solar Cell #3668 Flying around the Globe.

This is the location of solar cell number 3668 on the Solar Impulse 2 aircraft. This special plane is currently flying around the world. Solar cell number 3668 is the solar cell that I have sponsored on behalf of the Eye Research Institute of Oakland University. Funds derived from sponsors of solar cells on this aircraft are used by the Solar Impulse Foundation to develop educational materials for use around the globe. While I am a vision scientist, gene expression researcher and biochemist, I am also a science and research educator. A Professor here at Oakland University in Rochester and Auburn Hills, Michigan.

I spent much time poking around the map of available photovoltaic cells, choosing just the correct one for sponsorship. I settled on 3 6 6 8. The numbers have meanings to us here in the Eye Research Institute.

Three 3 is the number of different cone opsin genes and thus cone photoreceptors in Humans and other species that are trichromats. We can differentiate colours using three overlapping color sensitive windows for short, medium and long wavelengths of light. Call them blue, green and red for simplicity.

Six 6 is the number of different major types of retinal neurons that provide us with light detection and vision. They are rod cells, cone cells, bipolar cells, amacrine cells, horizontal cells, and ganglion cells. I also like 6 because  “building 6” housed most of the National Eye Institute’s intramural labs at the NIH in Bethesda MD, when I was a post-doctoral fellow there in 1995 to 1997.

Sixty Eight 68: the year that the founder of our Eye Research Institute, and first Director, V. Everett Kinsey PhD, began eye research here at Oakland University. Dr Kinsey shared the Lasker medical prize in 1956 with Dr Arnall Patz MD, for designing and managing the research to demonstrate that oxygen was an important driving factor in affecting the severity of retinopathy of prematurity in premature infant eyes. This turns out to have been one of the first pioneering examples of a very important concept in human medical research used today: the multicenter clinical trial.

Dr Kinsey is also known at the father of the NEI, as the person who proposed and then convinced other vision scientists, clinicians and the US Congress that the NIH should also have a National Eye Institute. Dr Kinsey then chaired the first national advisory panel of the NEI and chaired the committee that selected the NEI’s first Director, Dr Kupfer. The NEI also got started in 1968.

Finally, I have spent much of my own research career studying how genes are regulated and expressed to give different cells their different identities and functions in the body. One favorite model was the Rhodopsin gene itself, the gene encoding the protein that captures a single photon of light using bound cis-retinal and thus converts the energy of light into a neural network signal that is transmitting to our brains, one of the most important senses available to a sighted person. Our retinas recycle cis-retinal and it is used many times, in a sustainable fashion, which mirrors the concept of renewable energy demonstrated so well by the Solar Impulse 2 team flying around the globe now, using only the power of the Sun.

You can learn more about Solar Impulse 2 at :





College Students: Depression is a Trip

Katie Riegel writes a great read about depression. Many many people suffer with depression where a strange sadness traps your feelings even if there is no identified reason to feel that way.

How do you go out, work, play when you just need to cry?
Her post is found here:

Source: Depression is a Trip

Depression is a trip experienced by many college students.

Once I hit college at 18, was it the new stress of moving to a big city and not knowing anyone? I began to experience my emotional self just turning off. No crying, no laughing and just a strange neutrality.

I would be quite functional for a week but then i would have to cry in the shower to get something out.

The strange fog would lift in a few days if things were well or linger linger longer if things were more stressful.

As I got into 2nd year I finally made some new friends (Ottawa) and some who suffered clinical depression much more intrusive than mine. One of these kind souls noted our similar love of similar music and suggested I find a way to listen more often and just listen and play my guitar more.

Playing my guitar for myself alone for hours, time just went by and i would be tired and finally sleep. Waking, and I felt back to me again. Like myself.

Sure enough Sony Walkmans were around and my Sister gave me her machine after getting a newer model. It became my bus partner listening to my bag of tapes, custom mixes mostly, and CHEZ-106.

I found hours of listening to specific music over and over could bring my lack of emotion out from the the place it had vanished into. That black hole. For me its not sadness so much as feeling neutral. Kind of like Mr Spock. No emotions.

Now after a couple college degrees, three post docs and being a professor, I am not that bothered by stress or loneliness. Your brain is still developing its coping skills at 18. We are very much works in progress.

Recent surveys on university campuses indicate well over half of our students feel a sense of depression or anxiety during their undergraduate years. So. If you do, its normal. That is ok. But tell a friend or parent or visit your student health center on campus. Your own Doctor even.

Do not use drinking or any other drug to anesthetize the way you feel though. That can take you to a bad place that can harm you. Do talk to someone.

I have my guitars and my private playlist on youtube with songs that heal my soul. My escape from event horizon play list.

That and a good hug from a loved one works for me. Sadness can remind us we are human. I find that pains over losses remind me I am human and I likely need them to be a leader, a listener and a problem solver.

So hang in there if you find college stressful and new, and yes a bit lonely at first. Do join at least one student group or activity. Do walk or other exercise too. If you feel down more than you feel up, do talk to your doctor or get an appointment with the Student health services on your campus.

Ken Mitton, PhD
Associate Professor
Oakland University