New York Teenagers Now Able to Join the Donate Life Registry

Sixteen and getting your learner’s permit or first driver’s license? New York State law now allows you to complete the donor designation section on the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) application.


From the New York Alliance for Donation:

Life-changing legislation signed into law by Governor Cuomo in August 2016 [took effect on] February 14, 2017, potentially impacting thousands. The bill, A.4990B-Ortiz/S.5313A-Hannon, allows sixteen and seventeen-year-olds to express their intent to be organ, eye, and tissue donors by enrolling in the New York State Donate Life Registry. With this law, New York joins 48 other registries, including Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, where there is either no age restriction to join the donor registry, or the minimum age is younger than eighteen.


The donor designation section on New York State DMV application forms.

The donor designation section is available as well on the learner’s permit and driver’s license application forms that can be downloaded from the New York State’s DMV website. Those wishing to enroll can also visit The Eye-Bank’s website,, and sign up by clicking on the “Become a Donor” button to download a form.

This law helps to remove barriers for young people who wish to indicate their desire to be a registered donor, potentially making a difference for any number of the 10,000 New Yorkers who are waiting for life-saving organ and tissue transplants.


Summer Fun in the Sun Safety

While you enjoy outdoor activities this summer, consider these safety tips to protect your eyesight from the sun.

Summer Eye Protection_edited

From The American Academy of Ophthalmology:

Most sunglasses are designed to protect our eyes from the sun’s harmful effects. Often the labels on sunglasses promise protection from ultraviolet light and other kinds of natural radiation. It is important to know what kind of light you need to protect your eyes from and what type of light is not necessarily harmful.

Blocks 99 percent of ultraviolet rays

You should always buy sunglasses with this feature. Long-term exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight is linked to cataracts and eye growths, including cancer. UVB radiation is considered more dangerous to the eyes and skin than UVA radiation.

Both plastic and glass lenses absorb some UV light, but UV absorption can be improved by adding chemicals to the lens material during manufacturing or by applying special lens coatings.

Look for sunglasses that block 99 percent or 100 percent of all UV light. Some manufacturer’s labels say “UV absorption up to 400nm.” This is the same thing as 100 percent UV absorption.

Ground and polished

Some nonprescription glasses are ground and polished to improve the quality of the lenses. Nonprescription lenses that are not ground and polished will not hurt your eyes.

You do want to make sure that the lenses you buy are made properly. To judge the quality of nonprescription sunglasses, look at something with a rectangular pattern, such as floor tile. Hold the glasses at a comfortable distance and cover one eye. Move the glasses slowly from side to side, then up and down. If the lines stay straight, the lenses are fine. If the lines wiggle, especially in the center of the lens, try another pair.

Impact resistant

All sunglasses must meet impact standards set by the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety. No lens is truly unbreakable, but plastic lenses are less likely than glass lenses to shatter when hit by a ball or stone.

Most nonprescription sunglass lenses are plastic. Polycarbonate plastic sunglasses, used in many sports, are especially tough, but they scratch easily. If you buy polycarbonate lenses, look for ones with scratch-resistant coatings.


Polarized lenses cut reflected glare — sunlight that bounces off smooth surfaces like pavement, car windows, chromed surfaces or water. They can be particularly useful for driving and fishing.

Polarization has nothing to do with UV light absorption, but many polarized lenses are now combined with a UV-blocking substance. Check the label to make sure the lenses provide maximum UV protection.

Lens darkness

A medium lens is good for day-to-day wear, but if you use the glasses for very bright conditions, choose a darker lens.

The color and the degree of darkness do not tell you anything about the lenses’ ability to block UV light.


A photochromic glasses lens automatically darkens in bright light and becomes lighter in low light. Most of the darkening takes place in about half a minute, while the lightening takes about five minutes. Photochromic lenses come in a uniform or gradient tint.

Although photochromic lenses may be good UV-absorbent sunglasses (again, the label must state this benefit), it takes time for them to adjust to different light conditions.

Wraparound style

Wraparound glasses are shaped to keep light from shining around the frames and into your eyes.

Studies have shown that enough UV rays enter around ordinary eyeglass frames to reduce the benefits of protective lenses. Large-framed wraparound sunglasses can protect your eyes from all angles.

Gradient lenses

Gradient lenses are permanently shaded from top to bottom or from top and bottom toward the middle. Single gradient lenses (dark on top and lighter on the bottom) can cut glare from the sky but allow you to see clearly below. They are useful for driving because they don’t dim your view of the dashboard. They’re not as good, however, at reducing glare in snowy surroundings or at the beach.

Double-gradient lenses (dark on top and bottom and lighter in the middle) may be better for sports where light reflects up off the water or snow, such as sailing or skiing.

Double-gradient lenses are not recommended for driving because they make the dashboard appear dim.

Mirror coated

Mirror finishes are thin layers of various metallic coatings on an ordinary lens. Although they do reduce the amount of visible light entering your eyes, do not assume they will fully protect you against UV radiation.

Blocks 90 percent of infrared rays

Infrared wavelengths are invisible and produce heat. Sunlight has low levels of infrared rays, and the eye tolerates infrared well.

Some sunglass manufacturers make health claims for their products based on infrared protection, but research has not shown a close connection between eye disease and infrared rays.


Whether blue light is harmful to the eye is still controversial. Lenses that block all blue light are usually amber colored and make your surroundings look yellow or orange. The tint supposedly makes distant objects appear more distinct, especially in snow or haze. For this reason, amber sunglasses are popular among skiers, hunters, boaters and pilots.


For Cataract Awareness Month, Increase Your Vitamin C Intake

A study published in the June 2016 issue of Ophthalmology has shown that getting vitamin C can help curb the progression of cataracts.

Citrus fruit

From The American Academy of Ophthalmology:

What do grapefruit, broccoli and strawberries have in common?

They are foods loaded with vitamin C, which could help ward off cataracts, according to a British study.

Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens that happens naturally with age. The condition is the leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Researchers from King’s College London examined data from more than 1,000 pairs of female twins to see what factors may help keep cataracts at bay. They tracked intake of vitamin C and other nutrients from food and supplements. They also recorded how opaque the subjects’ lenses were at around age 60, with a follow-up on 324 sets of twins about 10 years later.

Women who reported consuming more vitamin C-rich foods had a 33 percent risk reduction of cataract progression over the decade, according to the study. Their lenses were also more clear overall.

“While we cannot totally avoid developing cataracts, we may be able to delay their onset and keep them from worsening significantly by eating a diet rich in vitamin C,” said study author Christopher Hammond, M.D., FRCOphth, professor of ophthalmology at King’s College London. The researchers noted that the findings only pertain to vitamins consumed through food and not supplements.

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. The fluid inside the eyeball is normally high in a compound similar to vitamin C, which helps prevent oxidation that results in a clouded lens. Scientists believe more vitamin C in the diet may increase the amount present around the lens, providing extra protection.

Because the study was done in twins, the team was also able to calculate how much of a role genetics versus environmental factors play in cataract progression. While environmental factors, such as diet, accounted for 65 percent, genetic factors only accounted for 35, indicating that diet and lifestyle may outweigh genetics.

The study, “Genetic and Dietary Factors Influencing the Progression of Nuclear Cataract,” will be published this June in Ophthalmology, the official journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Potential Biomarker for Glaucoma Damage Identified

From BioQuick News:

Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness worldwide, is most often diagnosed during a routine eye exam. Over time, elevated pressure inside the eye damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. Unfortunately, there’s no way to accurately predict which patients might lose vision most rapidly. Now, studying mice, rats, and fluid removed from the eyes of patients with glaucoma, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified a marker of damage to cells in the eye that potentially could be used to monitor progression of the disease and the effectiveness of treatment. The findings were published online on May 4, 2017 in the journal JCI Insight. The open-access article is titled “GDF15 Is Elevated in Mice Following Retinal Ganglion Cell Death and in Glaucoma Patients.” “There hasn’t been a reliable way to predict which patients with glaucoma have a high risk of rapid vision loss,” said principal investigator Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD, the Paul A. Cibis Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. “But we’ve identified a biomarker that seems to correlate with disease severity in patients, and what that marker is measuring is stress to the cells rather than cell death. Other glaucoma tests are measuring cell death, which is not reversible, but if we can identify when cells are under stress, then there’s the potential to save those cells to preserve vision.” Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the world, affecting more than 60 million people. The disease often begins silently, with peripheral vision loss that occurs so gradually that it can go unnoticed. Over time, central vision becomes affected, which can mean substantial damage already has occurred before any aggressive therapy begins. Many patients start receiving treatment when their doctors discover they have elevated pressure in the eye. Those treatments, such as eye drops, are aimed at lowering pressure in the eye, but such therapies may not always protect ganglion cells in the retina, which are the cells destroyed in glaucoma, leading to vision loss. Dr. Apte, also a Professor of Developmental Biology, of Medicine and of Neuroscience, said that all current treatments for glaucoma are aimed at lowering pressure in the eye to reduce ganglion cell loss and not necessarily at directly preserving ganglion cells.

Glaucoma specialists attempt to track the vision loss caused by ganglion cell death with visual field testing. That’s when a patient pushes a button when they see a blinking light. As vision is lost, patients see fewer lights blinking in the periphery of the visual field, but such testing is not always completely reliable, according to the paper’s first author, Norimitsu Ban, MD, an ophthalmologist and a postdoctoral research associate in Dr. Apte’s laboratory.

Some older people don’t do as well on the visual field test for reasons that may not be related to what’s going on in their eyes, Dr. Ban explained. He said that finding a marker of cell damage in the eye would be a much more reliable way to track the progression of glaucoma.

“We were lucky to be able to identify a gene and are very excited that the same gene seems to be a marker of stress to ganglion cells in the retinas of mice, rats, and humans,” Dr. Ban said.

Studying mouse models of glaucoma, Dr. Ban, Dr. Apte and their colleagues identified a molecule in the eye called growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), noting that the levels of the molecule increased as the animals aged and developed optic nerve damage.

When they repeated the experiments in rats, they replicated their results. Further, in patients undergoing eye surgery to treat glaucoma, cataracts, and other issues, the researchers found that those with glaucoma also had elevated GDF15 in the fluid of their eyes.

“That was exciting because comparing the fluid from patients without glaucoma to those with glaucoma, the GDF15 biomarker was significantly elevated in the glaucoma patients,” Dr. Apte said. “We also found that higher levels of the molecule were associated with worse functional outcomes, so this biomarker seems to correlate with disease severity.”

Dr. Apte and Dr. Ban don’t believe that the molecule causes cells in the retina to die; rather, that it is a marker of stress in retinal cells.
“It seems to be a harbinger of future cell death rather than a molecule that’s actually damaging the cells,” Dr. Apte said.

A potential limitation of this study is that the fluid samples were taken from the eyes of patients only once, so it was not possible to monitor levels of GDF15 over time. In future studies, it will be important to measure the biomarker at several time points to determine whether levels of the biomarker increase as the disease progresses, Dr. Apte said.

He would also like to learn whether GDF15 levels eventually decline in those who have significant vision loss from glaucoma. In theory, Dr. Apte said, when most of the ganglion cells in the retina already have died, fewer cells would be under stress, and that could mean lower levels.

“So we are interested in doing a prospective study and sampling fluid from the eye over several months or years to correlate glaucoma progression with levels of this marker,” he said. “We’d also like to learn whether levels of GDF15 change after treatment, a particularly important question as we try to develop therapies that preserve vision more effectively in these patients.”

The Eye-Bank goes to Albany for annual Legislative Education Day

The Eye-Bank joined the New York Alliance for Donation (NYAD) and other organ, eye, and tissue recovery organizations in Albany on Tuesday, May 2nd for Legislative Education Day.

Results were immediate with the New York State Senate announcing the passage of several bills on Tuesday:

The New York State Senate today passed a package of bipartisan bills aimed at encouraging more New Yorkers to become organ and tissue donors and protecting the rights of those who do. The bills focus on enhancing public awareness and removing bureaucratic obstacles and will increase the number of New Yorkers who sign up to help save lives through organ, tissue, bone marrow, and blood donation.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said, “Organ and tissue transplants affect nearly everyone. It’s an unfortunate truth for New Yorkers, but whether it’s you or someone close to you, your chances of being donated any type of organ for a lifesaving procedure are among the slimmest in the nation. The Senate is doing its best to correct this trend, and the bills we passed today build upon our longstanding commitment to raise awareness of organ and tissue donation and would be instrumental to helping more people live long, healthy lives.”

Only 27 percent of potential New Yorkers are enrolled in the New York State Donate Life Registry – the lowest rate in the country, whereas nearly 10,000 people are waiting for organ transplants in New York – the third highest rate in the country. The Senate continues to be advocates for increasing resources and public awareness on the importance of organ and tissue donation through legislation and funding. This year’s enacted state budget included $1.3 million as part of the Senate’s ongoing commitment to help New Yorkers’ need of lifesaving transplants.

The Senate passed two bills sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon (R, Nassau) to provide a wide variety of protections and support for prospective organ donors. The measures would bolster the amount of lifesaving organ and tissue and donations and shield donors in New York by:

· Enacting the “Living Donor Protection Act of 2017” to prevent discrimination against living organ or tissue donors who have or are applying for life, accident, health, or long-term care insurance; designating transplantation preparation and recovery related to donation as “serious health conditions” covered by paid family leave; and directing the Commissioner of Health, in cooperation with the transplant council and other interested parties to develop and distribute information on live organ donation (S2496); and S2497).

Senator Hannon said, “Each year the waiting list for organ transplants grows longer, with nearly 10,000 New Yorkers currently awaiting a transplant in this state alone. My legislation will accomplish many goals. It will ensure donors receive reliable and accurate information about donation and make sure those who donate are protected against insurance discrimination and benefit from paid family leave. It will also replace the current organ donation income tax deduction with a one-time personal income tax credit for up to $10,000 for expenses incurred by a living organ donor.”

To further increase public awareness of organ and tissue donation, especially among youth, a bill (S5283B) sponsored by Senator Chris Jacobs (R-C-I, Buffalo) would allow SUNY, CUNY, and library card applicants to register as an organ donor. The bill would expand Lauren’s Law, which changed DMV forms to require applicants to choose “yes” or “skip” the question about becoming a donor.

Senator Jacobs said, “The organ donor registration access bill approved today will enable us to target our Donate Life message to a captive new audience of over 20 million people. Our hope is that through our legislation, more people, particularly younger generations, will get exposed to the concept of organ donation earlier in life and sign up for this lifesaving cause.”

The Senate also passed legislation (S2162A), sponsored by Senator Susan Serino (R-C-I, Hyde Park), to help medical transport teams quickly operate within their necessary and sensitive time frames. The bill would add human organ delivery vehicles to the list of authorized emergency vehicles in the state.

Senator Serino said, “When your life depends on receiving a new organ or tissue donation, every second counts. To think that a life could be lost as an organ delivery vehicle sits in traffic is reprehensible. Should this bill become law, it would take effect immediately, so I urge my colleagues in both houses to make it a priority. Those on wait-lists for an organ have waited long enough.”

In addition, the Senate passed a bill (S474B), sponsored by Senator Jose Peralta (D, East Elmurst), that would give the option to applicants for the practice of a profession or occupation, state income tax filers, and applicants registering motor vehicles to register in the Donate Life Registry for organ, eye, and tissue donation.

The Senate also passed a measure (S1475), sponsored by Senator David Carlucci (D, Rockland/Westchester), that would allow a taxpayer or the spouse of a taxpayer to deduct costs related to the taxpayer’s organ donation, and include child care costs within such allowable costs.

The bills will be sent to the Assembly.

Additionally, another bill (S2495) sponsored by Senator Hannon, which would allow the state’s Transplant Council to expand its scope and help New York organ donation efforts by making annual recommendations to the Commissioner of Health on organ donation, procurement organizations, and organ banks and storage, passed both houses earlier this year.

LegEdDay entire group, 5-2-17
Approximately 65 volunteers joined staff from the New York Alliance for Donation member organizations in Albany on May 2nd for Legislative Education Day.
LegEdDay meeting, 5-2-17
From left to right: Donor wife, hospital liaison with The Eye-Bank, staffer from Assemblyman N. Nick Perry’s office (D-58 Brooklyn), and two staff members from The Eye-Bank’s Communications Department.
LegEdDay group 2, 5-2-17
From left to right: donor son, lung transplant recipient, and staff member from The Eye-Bank’s Communications Department with Senator Martin Golden (R-22 Brooklyn).
LegEdDay group 3, 5-2-17
From left to right: staff member from LiveOnNY, hospital liaison from The Eye-Bank, Senator Phil Boyle (R-4 Suffolk County), donor mother volunteer, and board member from The Eye-Bank who is also a donor mother.
LegEdDay group 4, 5-2-17
Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-12 Suffolk County) meets with Legislative Education Day volunteers who shared information on the importance of eye, organ, and tissue donation.
LegEdDay group 5, 5-2-17
Legislative Education Day participants meet New York State Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Wayne Jackson.

The Eye-Bank would like to thank our volunteers whose efforts made this Legislative Education Day such a success.

Governor Cuomo urges Residents to Consider Organ, Eye and Tissue Donation

New Yorkers are offered multiple opportunities to sign up in the state’s Donate Life Registry. Last week when commemorating April as Donate Life Month, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that New Yorkers can now register as eye, organ, and tissue donors when they apply for health insurance through NY State of Health, New York State’s official health insurance marketplace.

Other ways New Yorkers can enroll include:

  • Applying for a New York State driver license, learner permit, or non-driver ID in person at a Department of Motor Vehicles office or by visiting NYS Department of Motor Vehicles;
  • Applying for a free municipal ID card if a resident of New York City at (IDNYC is available to any city resident as a method of identification for various government and non-government services and offers additional NYC perks such as museum memberships);
  • Registering to vote as a New York State resident by visiting NYS Board of Elections;
  • By visiting The Eye-Bank for Sight Restoration’s website and downloading the New York State Donate Life Registry form;
  • And by calling The Eye-Bank at (212) 742-9000 and asking to be sent an enrollment form in the mail.

By signing up in the New York State Donate Life Registry, you may someday make a difference for New Yorkers who are in need of sight-saving corneal transplants or life-saving organ and tissue transplants. Once enrolled, your specific wishes about eye, organ, and tissue donation will be entered and the New York State Department of Health will send you a letter confirming you are in the State’s Donate Life Registry.