Category Archives: Men’s Health

A Phase 2/3 Clinical Trial of Trigriluzole for Alzheimer’s Disease

The first patient has been enrolled in a Phase 2/3 clinical trial of trigriluzole (BHV-4157), a novel glutamate modulator for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The trial is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of trigriluzole in patients diagnosed with AD of mild-to-moderate severity (Mini-Mental State Examination scores of 14-24 at screening), and is being conducted in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS) at sites throughout the USA.Howard Feldman, MD, FRCP, Director of the ADCS and Professor of Neurosciences at University of California San Diego School of Medicine added, “The preclinical evidence for the active metabolite of trigriluzole to modulate glutamate and confer neuroprotective effects in patients with AD is compelling, and the new formulation of trigriluzole should improve its pharmaceutical properties with potential for efficacy in AD.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, fatal neurodegenerative dementia that accounts for 60 – 80 percent of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s disease currently has no cure. Although there are FDA-approved medications for symptomatic treatment of AD, their clinical benefits are generally limited. Novel therapeutic approaches aimed at normalizing synaptic and extra-synaptic glutamate levels, such as trigriluzole, may offer the potential for symptomatic benefit in AD by improving cognitive function, as well as the potential for disease modification by preventing the loss of synapses.

The Phase 2/3 clinical trial (clinicaltrials.gov identifier NCT03605667) is a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of trigriluzole in patients diagnosed with AD of mild-to-moderate severity (Mini-Mental State Examination scores of 14-24 at screening). Patients who have been taking stable doses of FDA-approved AD medications (AchEI also known as acetylcholinesterase inhibitors and/or memantine) for a minimum of three months prior to screening and who are willing to remain on the same regimen for the duration of the trial may be eligible to participate. Approximately 292 patients will be randomized on a 1:1 basis to receive 280 mg of trigriluzole or placebo, taken orally at bedtime. Duration of treatment will be 48 weeks.

About Trigriluzole
Trigriluzole is a third-generation prodrug and new chemical entity that modulates glutamate, the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the human body. Trigriluzole has a wide range of pharmacological actions, including interactions with several types of ion channels, cellular signaling mechanisms and facilitation of glutamate reuptake. Some potential targets related to trigriluzole’s mechanism of action include (1) reducing presynaptic glutamate release through actions at the voltage-gated ion channels, (2) facilitating glutamate uptake via EAATs located on glial cells, (3) enhancing transmission through synaptic AMPA receptors, (4) altering GABAergic neurotransmission, and (5) effecting neurotrophic agents such as BDNF. Several of these targets of trigriluzole balance abnormalities observed in human AD post-mortem tissue as well as in AD animal models. As such, trigriluzole potentially offers neuroprotective effects at the level of the synapse as well as improved synaptic functioning, mechanisms that could exert both symptomatic and disease-modifying effects in AD.

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CRISPR Tech for Eye Disease Moves Closer to Reality

A study published in the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology shows that a CRISPR-based treatment can restore retinal function in mice.

Researchers from Columbia University have developed a new technique for the powerful gene editing tool CRISPR to restore retinal function in mice afflicted by a degenerative retinal disease, retinitis pigmentosa. This is the first time researchers have successfully applied CRISPR technology to a type of inherited disease known as a dominant disorder. This same tool might work in hundreds of diseases, including Huntington’s disease, Marfan syndrome, and corneal dystrophies. Their study was published online today in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Stephen H. Tsang, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues sought to create a more agile CRISPR tool so it can treat more patients, regardless of their individual genetic profile. Dr. Tsang calls the technique genome surgery because it cuts out the bad gene and replaces it with a normal, functioning gene. Dr. Tsang said he expects human trials to begin in three years. “Genome surgery is coming,” Dr. Tsang said. “Ophthalmology will be the first to see genome surgery before the rest of medicine.”

Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of rare inherited genetic disorders caused by one of more than 70 genes. It involves the breakdown and loss of cells in the retina, the light sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye. It typically strikes in childhood and progresses slowly, affecting peripheral vision and the ability to see at night. Most will lose much of their sight by early adulthood and become legally blind by age 40. There is no cure. It is estimated to affect roughly 1 in 4,000 people worldwide.

Since it was introduced in 2012, the gene editing technology known as CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) has revolutionized the speed and scope with which scientists can modify the DNA of living cells. Scientists have used it on a wide range of applications, from engineering plants (seedless tomatoes) to producing animals (extra lean piglets). But as incredible as genome surgery is, CRISPR has some flaws to overcome before it can live up to its hype of curing disease in humans by simply cutting out bad genes and sewing in good ones.

Typically, CRISPR researchers design a short sequence of code called guide RNA that matches the bit they want to replace. They attach the guide RNA to a protein called Cas9, and together they roam the cell’s nucleus until they find a matching piece of DNA. Cas9 unzips the DNA and pushes in the guide RNA. It then snips out the bad code and coaxes the cell to accept the good code, using the cell’s natural gene repair machinery.

Diseases like autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa present a special challenge to researchers. In autosomal dominant disorders, the person inherits only one copy of a mutated gene from their parents and one normal gene on a pair of autosomal chromosomes. So, the challenge for CRISPR-wielding scientists is to edit only the mutant copy without altering the healthy one. In contrast, people with autosomal recessive disorders inherit two copies of the mutant gene. When two copies of the gene are mutated, treatment involves a more straightforward, one-step approach of simply replacing the defective gene. Dr. Tsang and colleagues have come up with a better strategy to treat autosomal dominant disease. It allowed them to cut out the old gene and replace it with a good gene, without affecting its normal function.

Instead of using one guide RNA, Dr. Tsang designed two guide RNAs to treat autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa caused by variations in the rhodopsin gene. Rhodopsin is an important therapeutic target because mutations in it cause about 30 percent of autosomal dominant retinitis pigmentosa and 15 percent of all inherited retinal dystrophies.

This technique allowed for a larger deletion of genetic code that permanently destroyed the targeted gene. Dr. Tsang found that using two guide RNAs instead of one increased the chance of disrupting the bad gene from 30 percent to 90 percent. They combined this genome surgery tool with a gene replacement technique using an adeno-associated virus to carry a healthy version of the gene into the retina. Another advantage is that this technique can be used in non-dividing cells, which means that it could enable gene therapies that focus on nondividing adult cells, such as cells of the eye, brain, or heart. Up until now, CRISPR has been applied more efficiently in dividing cells than non-dividing cells.

Dr. Tsang used an objective vision test to evaluate the mice after treatment to show a significant improvement in retinal function. An electroretinogram is typically used to evaluate retinal health in humans. It tests the health of the retina much like an electrocardiogram (EKG) tests the health of the heart. Previous CRISPR studies for retinal diseases have relied on a less objective measure that involves evaluating how often the mouse turns its head in the direction of a light source. Dr. Tsang used electroretinography to show that retinal degeneration slowed in treated eyes compared with untreated eyes.

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Orphan Drug Designation for Treatment of ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

On March 29, 2018 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Orphan Products Development granted Orphan Drug Designation (ODD) to experimental therapeutic EH301 for the treatment of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

The Orphan Drug Designation submission included data from a 2017 double-blind placebo-controlled European pilot study in humans. To expand on the results of the pilot study, Elysium Health expects to initiate a placebo-controlled study in collaboration with Mayo Clinic to evaluate EH301 in up to 150 adults with ALS by the fourth quarter of 2018. The granting of ODD to EH301 does not alter the standard regulatory requirement through adequate and well-controlled studies to support FDA approval, and there is no guarantee EH301 will be approved for the treatment of ALS by FDA.

Elysium Health Chief Scientist Dr. Leonard Guarente remarked that “There is a great deal of work to be done to address the need for continued research to better understand and to treat all neurodegenerative diseases. We believe that the FDA’s granting of Orphan Drug Designation for EH301 for ALS underscores the need for novel treatments for this rare condition.”

ALS is a rare neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells that control voluntary muscles throughout the body to produce movements including talking, eating, walking, and breathing. ALS is progressive, meaning it gets worse over time. As the nerves lose the ability to control muscles, the muscles become weak and eventually lead to paralysis. Most people with ALS succumb to respiratory failure, usually within three to five years from when symptoms first appear. Please visit the ALS website for more information.

The FDA’s ODD program provides orphan status to drugs intended for the safe and effective treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of rare diseases or disorders that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the United States. It is estimated that there are approximately 15,000-20,000 Americans with ALS. Please see the NIH ALS Fact Sheet for details.

Additional information can be found on the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation website regarding current therapies and disease trends.

Disclosure: Mayo Clinic has a financial interest in Elysium Health. All revenue Mayo Clinic receives will be used to fund its not-for-profit mission in medical research and education.

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Beneficial Skin Bacteria Protect Against Skin Cancer

Science continues to peel away layers of the skin microbiome to reveal its protective properties.  Researchers now report on a potential new role for some bacteria on the skin: protecting against cancer.

“We have identified a strain of Staphylococcus epidermidis, common on healthy human skin, that exerts a selective ability to inhibit the growth of some cancers,” said Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This unique strain of skin bacteria produces a chemical that kills several types of cancer cells but does not appear to be toxic to normal cells.”

The team discovered the S. epidermidis strain produces the chemical compound 6-N-hydroxyaminopurine (6-HAP). Mice with S. epidermidis on their skin that did not make 6-HAP had many skin tumors after being exposed to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays (UV), but mice with the S. epidermidis strain producing 6-HAP did not.  6-HAP is a molecule that impairs the creation of DNA, known as DNA synthesis, and prevents the spread of transformed tumor cells as well as the potential to suppress development of UV-induced skin tumors.

Mice that received intravenous injections of 6-HAP every 48 hours over a two-week period experienced no apparent toxic effects, but when transplanted with melanoma cells, their tumor size was suppressed by more than 50 percent compared to controls.

“There is increasing evidence that the skin microbiome is an important element of human health. In fact, we previously reported that some bacteria on our skin produce antimicrobial peptides that defend against pathogenic bacteria such as, Staph aureus,” said Gallo.

In the case of S. epidermidis, it appears to also be adding a layer of protection against some forms of cancer, said Gallo. Further studies are needed to understand how 6-HAP is produced, if it can be used for prevention of cancer or if loss of 6-HAP increases cancer risk, said Gallo.

More than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year. More than 95 percent of these are non-melanoma skin cancer, which is typically caused by overexposure to the sun’s UV rays. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer that starts in the pigment-producing skin cells, called melanocytes.

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Huntington’s Disease Molecule Can Kill Cancer Cells

Scientists have destroyed numerous types of human cancer cells with a toxic molecule characteristic of fatal genetic illness Huntington’s disease.

The researchers hailed the molecule—which has killed both human and mouse ovarian, breast, prostate, liver, brain, lung, skin and colon cancer cell lines in mice—as a “super assassin.” Their results were published in the journal EMBO Reports.

Huntington’s disease is a progressive illness caused by an excess of a specific repeating RNA sequence in the Huntington gene, which is present in every cell. The defect causes the death of brain cells, and gradually worsens a person’s physical and mental abilities. The disease has no cure.

Researchers believe that the defect may be even more powerful against cancer cells than nerve cells in the brain, and the team hopes it can be harnessed to kill cancer cells without causing Huntington’s symptoms.  “This molecule is a super assassin against all tumor cells,” said senior author Marcus Peter, a professor of cancer metabolism at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, in a press statement. “We’ve never seen anything this powerful.”

Peter collaborated with Feinberg colleague Shad Thaxton, associate professor of urology, to deliver the molecule in the form of nanoparticles to mice with human ovarian cancer. The targeted molecule decreased tumor growth with no toxicity to the mice.

First author Andrea Murmann, a research assistant professor who discovered the cancer-killing mechanism, used the molecule to kill numerous other human and mouse cancer cell lines. Building on previous research into a cancer “kill switch”, Murmann looked to diseases associated with low rates of cancer and a suspected RNA link.  “I thought maybe there is a situation where this kill switch is overactive in certain people, and where it could cause loss of tissues,” Murmann said in the statement. “These patients would not only have a disease with an RNA component, but they also had to have less cancer.“

There is up to 80 percent less cancer in people with Huntington’s disease than the general population.  Murmann recognised similarities between the kill switch and the toxic Huntington’s disease RNA sequences.  Based on their results, the team believe the “super assassin” molecule could be used to fight cancer in humans. “We believe a short-term treatment cancer therapy for a few weeks might be possible, where we could treat a patient to kill the cancer cells without causing the neurological issues that Huntington’s patients suffer from,” Peter said.  The scientists next aim to refine the molecule’s delivery method to improve tumor targeting, and to stabilize the nanoparticles for storage.

By Katherine Hignett – Displayed with permission from Newsweek via RePubHub License; Cancer Cells courtesy of PixaBay FREE LIC CC0 

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Cancer Deaths Decline Again in US

Death rates from cancer in the United States dropped again between 2014 and 2015, continuing a downward trend that began in 1991 and has meant 2.4 million fewer deaths.

Advances in early detection and treatment, along with a drop in smoking, are believed to be responsible for much of the 26 percent drop since 1991, said the findings in the American Cancer Society’s comprehensive annual report. “This new report reiterates where cancer control efforts have worked, particularly the impact of tobacco control,” said Otis W. Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

“A decline in consumption of cigarettes is credited with being the most important factor in the drop in cancer death rates.”  However, he noted that “tobacco remains by far the leading cause of cancer deaths today, responsible for nearly three in 10 cancer deaths.”

Overall, the US cancer death rate reached a peak of 215.1 per 100,000 population in 1991, and has declined to 158.6 per 100,000 in 2015.

Deaths from lung cancer made a 45 percent decline among men and 19 percent among women.  Cancers of the breast, prostate and colon and rectum are also down steeply. The report forecasts about 1.7 million new cancer cases and 609,640 cancer deaths in the United States in 2018. “Over the past decade, the overall cancer incidence rate was stable in women and declined by about two percent per year in men,” it said.

While progress is evident, stark racial disparities remain. The cancer death rate in 2015 was 14 percent higher in blacks than in whites, down from a peak of 33 percent in 1993.

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AI-Driven Discovery of Novel Predictors of Parkinson’s

The discovery was powered by patient data from the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, sponsored by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

GNS Healthcare (GNS), a leading precision medicine company, announced the discovery of genetic and molecular markers of faster motor progression of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients, the LINGO2 gene together with a second genetic variant, along with demographic factors.

The publication describing the discovery, titled “Large-scale identification of clinical and genetic predictors of Parkinson’s disease motor progression in newly-diagnosed patients: a longitudinal cohort study and validation,” appears in the journal The Lancet Neurology. This discovery may accelerate the development of new drugs and better match new drugs to individual patients.

“Being able to use these predictors in the clinical setting will lead to faster and significantly cheaper clinical trials and accelerate the availability of new Parkinson’s Disease drugs for patients in need,” said Colin Hill, Chairman, CEO, and co-founder of GNS Healthcare. “A major hurdle in Parkinson’s research is that rates of progression are extremely varied. Some patients progress very quickly while others do not. With accurate predictors of rates of progression, we will be able to remove uncertainties from drug development and patient response, reduce the number of clinical trial enrollees required by as much as twenty percent, and speed up the development of effective new drugs.”

REFS™, the GNS causal machine learning (ML) and simulation platform was used to transform the longitudinal genetic and clinical patient data from 429 individuals (312 PD patients and 117 controls) into computer models that connect the genetic and molecular variation of patients to motor progression rates. These computer models were used to simulate the future effects of the genetic and prognostic variables on motor outcomes, essentially predicting the motor progression rate for each patient. The models were validated in an independent longitudinal study, and clearly demonstrated the ability to prospectively differentiate between patient progression rates.

“There is still so much to understand about the progression of chronic, debilitating illnesses like Parkinson’s disease,” said Jeanne C. Latourelle, D.Sc., a co-author of the study and Director of Precision Medicine, GNS Healthcare. “The validation of our models in this study underscores the power of our REFS™ technology and its ability to accelerate the development of effective therapies for patients in need.”

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Vaccine for Meningitis Shows Some Protection Against Gonorrhea

Scientists have not been able to develop a vaccine against the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea, despite working toward one for more than 100 years.  However, they may have stumbled onto something that could provide clues to advance the development of such a vaccine.

Decades ago, in the late 1990s, a strain of meningitis B was reaching epidemic proportions in New Zealand. A vaccine, MeNZB, was developed to protect young people who were at the highest risk of getting this particular type. It did not provide protection against any other strain.

Between 2004 and 2006, MeNZB was given to anyone under the age of 20. Babies and preschoolers were routinely immunized until 2008. People with a high medical risk continued to get the vaccine until 2011. Once the epidemic was over, the vaccination program was stopped.

However, scientists noticed that the meningitis vaccine also seemed to offer some protection against gonorrhea. A study published in the Lancet last month showed that one-third of the people who had received MeNZB did not get gonorrhea, compared to a control group who was not inoculated. The lead author noted that the bacteria causing both diseases share between 80 and 90 percent of their primary genetic sequences.

Dr. Steven Black, an infectious disease expert at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, noted, “This is the first time it’s been shown that you could have a vaccine that would protect against gonorrhea. And if these results are confirmed in another setting, that would mean that it would be very reasonable … to go forward with developing perhaps a more targeted vaccine.” Black’s comments were published in the current issue of JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association.  The JAMA article concludes that ultimately, a preventive vaccine could be the only sustainable solution to a fast-changing bug that has proven adept at developing resistance.

The World Health Organization reports that gonorrhea is becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat, warning that it could become incurable in the not-too-distant future. At the moment, there no new antibiotics being developed to treat this disease.

The U.S. CDC reports that gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported notifiable disease in the United States. All known cases must be reported to the CDC, but officials there estimate that they are notified of fewer than half of the 800,000 new cases each year.

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Probiotics to Treat Symptoms of Depression?

A new study is the first to show improved depression scores with a probiotic. It adds to the whole field of microbiota-gut-brain axis, providing evidence that bacteria affect behavior.

In a study published in the medical journal Gastroenterology, researchers of the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute found that twice as many adults with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) reported improvements from co-existing depression when they took a specific probiotic than adults with IBS who took a placebo. The study provides further evidence of the microbiota environment in the intestines being in direct communication with the brain said senior author Dr. Premysl Bercik, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster and a gastroenterologist for Hamilton Health Sciences.

“This study shows that consumption of a specific probiotic can improve both gut symptoms and psychological issues in IBS. This opens new avenues not only for the treatment of patients with functional bowel disorders but also for patients with primary psychiatric diseases,” he said. IBS is the most common gastrointestinal disorder in the world, and is highly prevalent in Canada. It affects the large intestine and patients suffer from abdominal pain and altered bowel habits like diarrhea and constipation. They are also frequently affected by chronic anxiety or depression.

The pilot study involved 44 adults with IBS and mild to moderate anxiety or depression. They were followed for 10 weeks, as half took a daily dose of the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum NCC3001, while the others had a placebo. At six weeks, 14 of 22, or 64%, of the patients taking the probiotic had decreased depression scores, compared to seven of 22 (or 32%) of patients given placebo. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) showed that the improvement in depression scores was associated with changes in multiple brain areas involved in mood control.

“This is the result of a decade long journey — from identifying the probiotic, testing it in preclinical models and investigating the pathways through which the signals from the gut reach the brain,” said Bercik. “The results of this pilot study are very promising but they have to be confirmed in a future, larger scale trial,” said Dr. Maria Pinto Sanchez, the first author and a McMaster clinical research fellow.

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Millennials Face a New Threat: Blue Light from Tech Devices

A “Jacob Moses MD Memorial Lecture” offers a new perspective on Blue light and innovative technology to prevent disease while enhancing visual performance.

Millennials and technology users all face the dangers of over-exposure to blue light waves from devices

Melanin and Ocular Lens Pigment are natural defenses to filter Blue light in skin and eyes. Innovative external lenses using these derivatized compounds complement the human body to reduce glare, improve sleep, balance circadian rhythm to maintain overall health, and may prevent blindness.

Dr. Michael Tolentino MD delivered the prestigious “Jacob Moses MD Memorial Lectureship” to an audience of over 40 eye doctors in Columbus Ohio regarding the impact of naturally occurring and artificially generated sources of High Energy Visible (Blue) light on the primary optical tract and retinal-hypothalamic tract. “Blue light threatens our eyes, our vision, and circadian rhythm,” explained Dr. Tolentino. He detailed preventative measures to protect our visual and physiological systems using cost-effective external lenses to enhance natural defenses.

The human body produces Melanin and Ocular Lens Pigment, which were paradigms for Blue light protection, and patented by Dr. James Gallas of Photoprotective Technologies as derivatives that filter light in proportion to the Blue light wavelengths ability to cause damage.

“The combination of Melanin and Ocular Lens Pigment (OLPTM) provide more effective filtration of Blue light than anything I am aware of and I recommend using the lenses to reduce issues involving glare and damage to the retina and macula from prolonged or intense Blue light exposure. Further, the MPF lens promotes balanced Melatonin production, critical to proper physiological function to help mitigate chronic diseases including cardiovascular issues, depression, diabetes, obesity, and cancer,” explained Dr. Tolentino.

About Dr. Michael Tolentino: He is Associate Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the University of Central Florida and co-founder of the Tolentino Eye Research Foundation (www.tolentinoeye.org) is recognized globally as a medical authority, whose qualifications include education or faculty at Brown University, Harvard University, University of Massachusetts and University of Pennsylvania. He co- invented the concept of intravitreal anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) injections, in particular, the drug Avastin. He is credited for determining that VEGF is sufficient and necessary for the development of diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and wet macular degeneration. He also co-invented Bevasiranib a siRNA against VEGF. As a clinical trialist, he has helped more than half a dozen drugs or treatments for the eye obtain FDA approval.  He is currently developing novel topical, nutritional, and preventative alternatives to prevent blindness.

TrueBlue Vision holds the exclusive production of lenses and products for both natural (outdoor) and artificial (indoor) blue light filtration. After an extensive review of product performance, TrueBlue was recently chosen by “IRIS The Visual Group” Canada’s largest network of Eyecare Professionals. To learn more about preventative strategies and novel therapies for retinal diseases such as macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, please visit http://www.tolentinoeye.org.  To learn more about the Blue Light Threat and TrueBlue lenses, please visit http://www.truebluevision.com

Source: TrueBlue Vision, Displayed with permission from PRNewswire for Journalists

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