Groundbreaking Technique that could help the blind regain sight goes under Human Trials

A new neuroscience technique known as Optogenetics, which scientists believe can restore the functionality of dysfunctional retinal photoreceptors (nerve cells that sense light to impart vision) in the eye, is going under its first trials on humans.

Why is it significant?
Because till today, there is no known cure for blindness caused by damage to retinal cells.

image
Retina of a Retinitis pigmentosa patient, as seen through a retinoscope.

How does it work?
The technique is methodologically very similar to how scientists made pest resistant BT cotton, harnessing viruses’ capability of inserting their own genes into the DNA of the cells they infect. First the scientists ‘cut and paste’ the gene for a photo-sensitive protein from an algae into a virus; and then inject the virus into the retinal region. The virus then does what it does – it enters the retinal cells and spills out its own DNA into the host’s nucleus, setting loose the transplanted light sensitivity gene to get involved into the host’s DNA. This could make the non-sensitive retinal cells sensitive to light, though only marginally and probably in monochrome.

image
3D structure of Channelrhodopsin, the light-sensitivity protein that is central to reviving the sight in this therapy.

The promoters of the trial hope that patients who can only sense light intensity currently would be able to see large objects after this therapy. It is a lot easier said than done, but the outcomes will be tremendous if it succeeds.

image
Chlamydomonas Reinhardtii, the algae from which the gene for channelrhodopsin is extracted, as seen under microscope.

What diseases can it potentially benefit?
As for now, all sorts of retinal degenerative conditions seem to be benefiting, including retinitis pigmentosa, on whose patients the trials will be taken.

image
Retinoscopic image of normal and healthy retina.

What are the future possibilities?
Other groups believe that the same technique can be used for treating a wide range of neurological disorders, including autism, parkinsonism and Alzheimer’s disease. There is already a trial in consideration for treating Parkinson’s disease using this technique.

Further Details?
Read more at the source here, on the Business Insider website.

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6 thoughts on “Groundbreaking Technique that could help the blind regain sight goes under Human Trials

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    1. Thanks for your appreciation and kind words! Though I write mainly about herbal medicine, I do post about medical research and other health topics every now and then. Starting yesterday, I’m inviting ideas from readers about what they would like to read more of, on my blog’s About/Ask page in the menu. You can post your specific suggestions there if you like to; and do visit again. Regards,

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      1. Okay, yes definitely! I am open to new topics to write about as well if you have any for me! I have just recently started blogging ,but maybe we can collaborate for a blog! I just thought I would ask since I like researching about similar things too!

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        1. Hey, sure that’s a cool idea! Why didn’t it dawn on me earlier? Will be around following your upcoming articles. I hope you could check out on mine too. By the way, I liked your first post a lot! Looking forward to read more. Best luck blogging!

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