The Loh Down On Science

Blind Mice

A protein from algae restores sight to blind mice.

Three blind mice? Not any more!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science

and with an update to the old nursery rhyme.

Neurobiologist Botond Roska at Switzerland's Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research has developed a technique to restore eyesight in mice.

The secret? Algae. Talk about your green solutions!

Light enters your eye through light-sensitive photoreceptors, then travels through several layers of cells before being relayed to the brain as a visual image. When photoreceptors are damaged or missing, signals can't get through.

The team replaced missing or damaged photoreceptors in blind mice with channelrhodopsin, a light-sensitive protein found in algae. Add channelrhodopsin, and information from light can be relayed through cell layers and reach the brain.

Results? Untreated mice still couldn't see their paw in front of their face, and bumbled around like blind mice.

But tests on mice treated with channelrhodopsin showed they finally saw the light. Eureka!

The technique is now being developed for humans, and could help treat retinal degeneration and other causes of blindness.

And happily, those three blind mice can finally "see how they run"! Watch that tail, though.


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