Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to regain sight once you’ve lost it? According to two scientific researchers at Weill Cornell College in the U.S. believe it is more than possible.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in June 2012, there are 285 million people who are visual impaired worldwide; out of this, 39 million people are blind.
In developing countries, cataracts are the leading causes of blindness. Cataract is a clouding that forms in the eye which can block out light and cause lost vision. You can be born with cataracts or develop it in your elderly years.
Blindness is usually caused by diseases of the retina that kills off the photoreceptors which are normally responsible for creating the neural codes for our brains to convert into images. Despite these input cells being destroyed, the diseases do not attack the retina’s output cells which deliver the codes to the brain.
Prosthetic devices that are currently available can only show spots of light, not actual images. A groundbreaking discovery made by Dr. Nirenberg and Dr. Pandarinath at Weill Cornell Medical College, USA found that applying gene therapy to a microchip that is implanted into a prosthetic retinal device could restore normal vision.
The gene therapy/chip system would be used in conjunction with special piece of eyewear that has a camera attached which would send the light patterns to the microchip. The chip would convert the light patterns into neural codes which the ganglion (output) cells would decode and deliver to the brain as images.
The researchers had tested on blind mice and normal mice and results showed that the blind mice using the gene therapy/chip system could nearly as well as the mice with normal vision. The blind mice without the gene therapy/chip system had the worst vision.
After rigorous laboratory testing, the researchers found that gene therapy and chip system could reverse blindness and restore sight in blind patients. However, the retinal prosthetic devices need to undergo human trials to test the safety of using gene therapy. If the human trials are successful, this would be a revolutionary achievement.
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