Berkeley Neuroscientists Engineer Molecule That Causes Blind Mice to React to Light

By Robert Nizza
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, a blind character wore a visor that helped him to see the world. With any luck, that won’t be science fiction for long.
UC Berkeley Professor Richard Kramer and his colleagues, including graduate student Ivan Tochitsky, have engineered a molecule that, when injected into the eyes of blind mice, causes them to react to light. With a little extra hardware, Kramer says, this molecule could help humans suffering from diseases like macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.
Kramer is an optical neuroscientist. The molecule he helped to engineer, called DENAQ (dee-nac), has a two-pronged action: The rod-shaped molecule folds when exposed to light, opening the plugged-up ion channels in the retina. It also completes the electrical circuit to the cellular layers of the retina beyond the dead rods and cones, artificially making these layers sense light. Currently, the drug lasts for about one week.
Is it that the brain is still paying attention to these circuits after the rods and cones are dead and shriveled? “That’s the big assumption,” Kramer says. They hope the drug will be approved for human testing in the next three years and they will find out more. 
According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, the number of people with age-related macular degeneration is expected to reach 2.95 million in 2020. 
How might the use of DENAQ work in….
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Source: Alumni-Berkeley