Naked Scientist : Scientists restore vision to blind mice

Researchers at Oxford University have revealed how it might be possible to reverse blindness using gene therapy to reprogram cells at the back of the eye to become light sensitive.

It seems these cells can be stimulated to mimic visual responses and restore vision by using a small electronic implant, restoring some vision.

The experiment was used on mice, and after a year they maintained vision and were able to recognise objects in their environment.

The Naked Scientist explains further.

This is a specific form of blindness which is called retinitis pigmentosa. It tends to crop up more when people age.

Chris Smith, The Naked Scientist

What Samantha and her colleagues have done is to take a harmless virus, they have replaced all the genes in the virus with a gene encoding, something called melanopsin, which uses a human light-sensitive molecule - t is actually found in the eye - and then injecting the virus beneath the retina.

Chris Smith, The Naked Scientist

They find that the virus goes into other surviving cells at the back of the eye, so these other cells begin to pick up light signals and the animals regain their vision.

Chris Smith, The Naked Scientist

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