Hope for millions blinded by glaucoma: Staring at changing patterns of black lines ‘helps damaged optic nerve to heal’

  • Optic nerve is damaged and can’t grow back in conditions like glaucoma
  • Scientists made sufferers stare at changing patterns of black lines
  • Found this caused the damaged cells in their optic nerves to re-grow
  • Combined with gene therapy, sight was partially restored after treatment

Millions of people blinded by conditions such as glaucoma may one day be able to see again after scientists discovered a way to regenerate damaged optic nerves.

Researchers found a therapy called high contrast visual stimulation – making sufferers stare at changing patterns of black lines – helped the nerve cells grow back.

They combined this with gene therapy,which increased the amount of a protein known to promote optic nerve regeneration – and found this triggered an even greater improvement in sight.

Dr Paul Sieveing, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute, who carried out the study, said: ‘Reconnecting neurons in the visual system is one of the biggest challenges to developing regenerative therapies for blinding eye diseases like glaucoma.

‘This research shows that mammals have a greater capacity for central nervous system regeneration than previously known.’

The optic nerve is the eye’s ‘data cable’, carrying visual information from the light-sensing cells in the retina in the back of the eye, to the brain…….