Blind eyes can "see light" with new drug
- 20 Feb
Animal studies have shown that a drug is able to restore the eyes ability to sense light after blindness.
Rods and cones in the retina have a job to react to light; however they can de destroyed by disease. A study in the journal ‘Neuron' has revealed that a chemical could give "support-duty cells" in the eye the power to respond readily to light.
Experts have said that it was a fascinating concept which may lead to treatments, however more research was needed.
Researchers at the University of California, have focused on a type of nerve cell in the eye - retinal ganglion cells, reports the BBC. They've designed a chemical called Denaq which changes shape in response to light. The shape-shift alters the chemistry of the cell and results in electrical signals being sent to the brain.
Testing Denaq on blind mice found their site to be restored to a degree of vision; however the effects wore off quickly, but the mice were still able to detect light a week later.
One of the researchers, Dr Richard Kramer, said: "Further testing on larger mammals is needed to assess the short and long-term safety of Denaq. It will take several more years, but if safety can be established, these compounds might ultimately be useful for restoring light sensitivity to blind humans. How close they can come to re-establishing normal vision remains to be seen."
Researchers hope that the drug could eventually help with diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.
Professor Astrid Limb, from the Institute for Ophthalmology at University College London, told the BBC: "It's a very interesting concept that you can stimulate the remaining cells. However, there is still a lot of work to do before this research can be applied to humans."
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