Who knew that pancakes make pretty good stand-ins for the human eye?
Researchers at the University College London have been using this favorite of breakfast foods to investigate how to improve surgery for glaucoma.
Glaucoma is the world’s leading cause of blindness and effects a whopping 3.54% of the world’s population between the ages of 40-80. There presently exists no cure for the condition, but treatments focus on management and prevention of further damage.
A team led by Ian Eames, professor of fluid mechanics, studied the physical processes which pancakes undergo throughout the cooking process to gather insight into glaucoma treatments. According to these scientists, studying how water escapes pancake batter can help us to better understand how the human retina interacts with fluid vapors, such as those present in glaucoma.
“Pancakes come in many shapes and sizes and everyone has their favourites — some prefer a small, thick pancake with a smooth surface whereas others enjoy a large, thin crêpe with ‘craters’ and crispy edges,” Eames said.
“We’ve discovered that the variations in texture and patterns result from differences in how water escapes the batter during cooking and that this is largely dependent on the thickness and spread of the batter.”
However, this research proved to have another valuable insight: How to make the perfect pancake.
The team used 14 pancake recipes from around the globe for their research, and specifically analyzed the “baker’s ratio”, or the ratio of liquid to flour.
The findings demonstrated that thicker batters had a tendency to trap vapors, thus causing irregular craters to form on the bottom of the pancakes. This in turn resulted in islands forming on the top of the pancake because the thickness was no longer uniform due to the trapped vapor.
In contrast, medium consistency batters allow the vapors to release smoothly from beneath the pancake, thus creating an even color and texture.
So, if you are looking to cook up a batch of perfect pancakes the research suggests that you should use a baker’s ratio of 175. Generally, the team found that thinner batters allowed themselves to be spread smoothly across the pan, which result in more even cooking.
But, you are probably asking, what does this tell us about the eyes?
“We work on better surgical methods for treating glaucoma, which is a build-up of pressure in eyes caused by fluid. To treat this, surgeons create an escape route for the fluid by carefully cutting the flexible sheets of the sclera,” explained co-author Peng Khaw, director of the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology.
“We are improving this technique by working with engineers and mathematicians. It’s a wonderful example of how the science of everyday activities can help us with the medical treatments of the future.”
To learn more about pancakes and their importance to understanding the human eye check out the video below!