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Saturday / February 24.
HomeminewsAltering Cells May Restore Vision

Altering Cells May Restore Vision

Doctors may one day treat some forms of blindness by altering the genetic program of the light-sensing cells of the eye, according to scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column]

Working in mice with retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that causes gradual blindness, the researchers reprogrammed the cells in the eye that enable night vision. The change made the cells more similar to other cells that provide sight during daylight hours and prevented degeneration of the retina, the light-sensing structure in the back of the eye.

The scientists now are conducting additional tests to confirm that the mice can still see. “We think it may be significantly easier to preserve vision by modifying existing cells in the eye than it would be to introduce new stem cells,” says senior author Joseph Corbo, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology and immunology. “A diseased retina is not a hospitable environment for transplanting stem cells.”

The new study focuses on a protein known as Nrl, which influences development of photoreceptors. Cells that make Nrl become rods, while cells that lack the protein become cones. Turning off the Nrl gene in developing mice leads to a retina packed with cone cells.

The study is available in the early online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.