Experiments on mice show promise for a treatment that expresses a light-sensitive human protein, called rod opsin, on the undamaged retinal cells. These cells are turned into photoreceptors, which allow vision.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a group of eye disorders that appear to be genetic. This eye disease is a major cause of vision loss and blindness.
The research is being headed up by Rob Lucas, GSK Professor of Neuroscience. The mice in the experiment had advanced retinal degeneration due to their genes and were considered blind. With the new treatment, they could tell the difference between a steady and a flickering light; they could also see spatial patterns and a “natural movie.”
The treatment seemed to work with lower lighting levels than are required of other vision restoration treatments. They used human proteins, which are less harmful and easier to produce than non-human proteins. Loss of rod and cone receptors causes vision loss in retinitis pigmentosa patients, as well as some other eye diseases.
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Study: “Restoration of Vision with Ectopic Expression of Human Rod Opsin” by Jasmina Cehajic-Kapetanovic et. al. Current Biology Volume 25, Issue 16, p2111–2122, 17 August 2015 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.07.029