Algae May Restore Sight – Channelrhodopsin-2

ChlamydomonasA type of algae offers hope of restoring sight to patients with retinal diseases such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Chlamydomona reinhardtii green algae uses a protein called Channelrhodopsin-2. This protein sits on the membrane of algae and opens or closes a tunnel-like structure in response to light. In essence, it detects light and transmits that information via electricity.

The research by Dr. Zhou-Hua Pan from Wayne State University could, in the future, provide vision restoration treatments for serious macular diseases. As a result of macular disease the rods and cones die, but the ganglion and polar cells stay in place. These crucial vision cells can still send messages to the brain. It is hoped the protein can be delivered to the eye using gene therapy to replace the functioning of the photoreceptors.

Channelrhodopsin-2 has been tested on mice. Within a few months, the mice were able to pass the vision tests. However, the brain needs to re-wire itself to handle the visual input. Color blindness and other vision deficiencies may be found in the trials.  RetroSense Therapeutics is working on the technology and developing practical applications.


Next: Learn more about other treatment updates and nutritional support for macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.