Researchers have restored vision in mice with optic nerve injuries, a step toward possible treatments for glaucoma and other aging-related diseases, Agence France Presse reports.
Senior author David Sinclair from Harvard Medical School and his colleagues report in the journal Nature that ectopic expression of Oct4, Sox2, and Klf4 (OSK) could coax mouse retinal ganglion cells to revert to the DNA methylation patterns typically observed among younger mice. The OSK genes are three of the four Yamanaka transcription factors that reprogram cultured somatic cells into pluripotent stem cells.
The researchers additionally treated a mouse model of optic nerve damage with the OSK transcription factors to find that the cocktail stimulated axon regeneration. Likewise, in a mouse model of glaucoma, OSK treatment led to increased axonal density and visual acuity. Further, in older mice with other aging-related vision loss, OSK treatment could improve visual acuity among some mice.
According to Nature News, Harvard has licensed the technology to Life Biosciences, which is now conducting preclinical safety tests.
"There are many labs now who are working on this whole concept of reprogramming," Buck Institute for Research on Aging's Judith Campisi tells it. "We should be hopeful but, like everything else, it needs to be repeated and it needs to be extended."