See, blind mice

Hope for a cure for blindness may no longer be simply wishful thinking following a successful attempt by scientists to restore sight in vision-impaired mice.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers from Fudan University in China report that light sensitivity was restored to blind mice following the implantation of nanowires made from titanium dioxide coated in gold nanoparticles.

A team led by Jing Tang placed the nanowires into the retinas of the mice, using them to reinvigorate damaged photoreceptors.

The receptors generated an electrical current when exposed to light, which propagated outwards to surrounding neurons and restored their function. To assess the result, the researchers monitored the rodents’ brains and detected a response to green, blue and ultraviolet light.

The mice also showed pupil contraction when exposed to light, further indicating photoreceptor activity.

Tang and his team report that the implants remained in operation for eight weeks, without side-effects or decrease in efficiency.

Mouse model results do not always translate into human outcomes, and the researchers say much more work is needed. However, the research at least raises the possibility that a similar approach might one day be used to treat degenerative eye conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa or macular degeneration.

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