FROM MICE TO OUR EYES
Optogenetics has helped researchers observe how the brain works inside animals by making the nerve cells sensitive to light, giving scientists control over nerve activity. Now, promising research may transform the technique into a method of giving sight to the blind.
Research developed by scientist Zhuo-Hua Pan at Wayne State University is being used by a company called RestroSense to develop an operation that will allow previously blind individuals to see again. The company will inject a virus doped with light-sensitive algae DNA into a patient’s eyes, which could provide them with some form of vision.
Ultimately, blind people often are unable to see due to a loss of photoreceptors. To overcome this loss, the company will inject the viruses laden with algae DNA into the center of the eye. The goal is for the virus to hit the topmost layer of cells in the retina, called ganglions. Once they start making the light-sensitive protein, the ganglion cells should fire in response to light.