At the Institute of Genetic Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, researchers are using algal genes to restore sight to blind mice, reports New Scientist's Rowan Hooper. The researchers used a gene from algae that encodes a light-sensitive protein and targeted the expression of that gene to a subset of retinal cells. The technique restored the mice's ability to sense light and dark, Hooper says. For people with forms of blindness like retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration, the photoreceptors in their eyes are damaged and they no longer transform light hitting the eye into electrical impulses that the brain can translate into images, Hooper adds. This kind of therapy could correct that problem. Clinical trials in humans could begin sometime in the next two years.
Apr 14, 2011