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Researchers Restore Sight in Blind Mice

Restored Sight Mice

Image credit: Sonja Kleinlogel/Retina of blind mouse treated with the new approach.

By introduction of an engineered light-sensing protein into the eyes of mice, researchers from the University of Bern have succeeded in restoring daylight vision of the blind mice.

Known as “optogenetics, such process applies a modified virus to introduce the proteins directly into existing vision cells deeply rooted within the eye. It is hoped that their study could lead to new therapies, which would tackle blindness in human beings.

As Dr. Sonja Kleinlogel, one of leading researchers involved in the study said, they believed that this novel therapy could possibly restore sight in patients who have suffered from various kinds of photoreceptor degenerations, for instance, those patients with serious symptoms of age-associated macular degeneration, that is quite common among the people aged over 65 by the rate of one in every 10 of them.

Their research relied on the fact that when people were suffering from loss of light-sensing cells over a period of time, called as ‘progressive degenerative blindness,’ vision cells in deeper layers of the eye were still kept unchanged. Although these cells failed to sense light, many of the signaling pathways were remaining the same. It was in these deeper cells, also called as retinal cells, where scientists succeeded in inserting the new light-sensing proteins, which could in turn use the current pathways to enable the cells to sense light.

Being published in PLOS Biology, this new research has been carried out on the basis of optogenetics studies previously done in this regard. According to the new study of Dr. Sonja Kleinlogel’s team, the older researches focused on using the traditional light-sensing proteins for sight restoration, but they needed the “unnaturally high light intensities,” which was possibly more harmful.

It is the hope of Dr. Kleinlogel that with increasingly improvement, this new approach would allow patients to see under normal daylight conditions without any help from the light intensifiers or image converter goggles.

Called as Opto-mGluR6, the new light-sensing protein engineered by scientists consists of two different parts. The first half comes from the light-sensing pigment melanopsin, while the pretty complex second half is made from a protein, which is already linked closely with sending light signals to the brain. In this case, the new protein generated from the work of scientists is “invisible” to the immune system.

It is assumed that during their life, one in 300 people would suffer from partial or complete or blindness owing to degradation of the light-sensing cells in their eyes. It could occur any time in a person’s life, which should be very painful. It is hoped that with more research going on, the new approach would be help patients restore their sight to the original condition.

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