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Chemical helps blind mice see - US study

2012-07-25 22:47

Washington - US scientists have been able to help blind mice see again by injecting a chemical that makes them sensitive to light, according to a study released on Wednesday.

The findings in the journal Neuron offer hope of a treatment that could one day help people who suffer from the most common forms of blindness, such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

The chemical is called AAQ and works by making cells in the retina sensitive to light, said lead researcher Richard Kramer, University of California Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology.

It is temporary and does not require surgery, and may offer a new pathway toward restoring vision that does not involve implanting microchips or doing stem cell transplants, two techniques under investigation.

"The advantage of this approach is that it is a simple chemical, which means that you can change the dosage, you can use it in combination with other therapies, or you can discontinue the therapy if you don't like the results," said Kramer.

"As improved chemicals become available, you could offer them to patients. You can't do that when you surgically implant a chip or after you genetically modify somebody."

Effect

It is unclear how well the treated mice could see, but researchers could tell the chemical had an effect because their pupils contracted in bright light and the mice displayed avoidance of light.

The mice in the experiment had genetic mutations that made their rods and cones die within months of birth.

"This is a major advance in the field of vision restoration," said co-author Russell Van Gelder, an ophthalmologist and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Washington, Seattle.

"We still need to show that these compounds are safe and will work in people the way they work in mice, but these results demonstrate that this class of compound restores light sensitivity to retinas blind from genetic disease."

Researchers said they are currently working on a next-generation chemical compound for the next step of experiments in mice.

Comments
  • robin.stobbs.9 - 2012-07-26 08:05

    Just the very thing for 'showerhead' and cronies. "There are none so blind as those who won't see!"

  • LanfearM - 2012-07-26 09:38

    Wonderful news. Hope it will be ready for human consumption pretty soon!

  • trevor.blumberg.1 - 2012-07-26 09:52

    No more " 3 blind mice " !

  • kimsaiyanprincess.murison - 2012-07-26 10:53

    - I am waiting for the person to start with his/her, "You cannot play God speech".

  • gail.hayesbean - 2012-07-26 15:29

    I read this with great hope as my mother has gone blind due to MD and glaucoma and even a caataract. She also had a terrigium removed when she was younger. I am disappointed however as I can tell the scientists that my mother is already light sensitive, but she can't view colour or read things anymore. She still has all her marbles and all the current meds are doing for her are making her go deaf! we haven't disillusioned her however because she is 90 and very frail and doesn't need to know that. So KEEP working away guys because I am telling you what the mice cannot. These people ARE light sensitive already. It's the ability to actually see anything blocking the light that is their problem so get to work on that rather. My mother does occasionally have episode where she is subjected to coloured light shows which she sees in her memory I guess and can describe vividly in terms of shape and colour etc. It's the bars across her eyes that prevent her seeing - not the light. She doesn't see colour anymore though unless it is caused by a physiological condition is my best guess. Low blood pressure which suddenly goes up to about 140/60

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