Is a cure for blindness on the horizon?
Scientists reverse decay of retina cells to partially restore sight
- University of Bern scientists have restored vision to mice in daylight
- They used a protein to fix light-sensing cells deep in the retina
- The method could solve progressive degenerative blindness
- Condition includes macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy
But scientists say they have found a way to reverse this deterioration, and have managed to partially restore sight in mice.
The breakthrough could one day help restore vision to the one in 300 people who suffer from the degradation of light-sensing cells in their eyes.
The research was conducted by scientists at the University of Bern in Switzerland and the University of Goettingen in Germany.
They did this by introducing light-sensing proteins called Opto-mGluR6 into the cells, which survive in the retina even when they degrade.
In the experiment, mice who had become blind through progressive degenerative blindness had their vision restored in daylight.
And the team think it is possible that the same results could be replicated in humans.
Co-author of the paper Dr Sonja Kleinlogel from the University of Bern said: ‘We were asking the question, “Can we design light-activatable proteins that gate specific signaling pathways in specific cells?”’
The new proteins introduced into the eye to effectively turn the old cells into photoreceptors, allowing them to process incoming light.
Using existing signalling pathways, they were able to active the activate the visual cortex of the brain to analyse visual signals.