Hopes have been raised for all of mankind as a team of US scientists from the National Institutes of Health have successfully used gene injection in mice to reprogramme non-seeing retinal cells so they can be used as a replacement to non-functioning  rod cells. The reason why this is so important is because its the first time researchers have managed to prove that it is possible to repair lost light-sensitive cells in the eye by putting a gene into the retinal cells and using it to reorientate them.

Specifically, when scientists tested this concept on mice they found that the test subjects regained their vision after about six weeks, although only the cells that allow vision in low light conditions – the rod cells – were restored. However, having said that, researchers hope maintaining the rods will consequently protect the cones – these being the other type of retinal cell which is necessary for sight.

Although the experiment was only carried out on mice one of the researchers named  Dr Bo Chen stated that: “This is very powerful cell repair machinery,” adding “The major strength of the research is this can be applied to the wider spectrum of retinal degenerative diseases,” before ending on this positive note: “If this works, this could transform the way we treat patients with retinal disease and possibly learn how to cure other types of eye disease like glaucoma.”

 

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