Receptor transplant makes blind mice see
19.04.2012 - British researchers have shown for the first time that transplanting photoreceptors into the eyes of blind mice can restore their vision.
London – The findings reported in Nature suggests that transplanting light-sensitive nerve cells that line the back of the eye could form the basis of a new treatment to restore sight in people with degenerative eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetes-related blindness.
The team, led by Professor Robin Ali with researchers at University College London, injected immature cells from young healthy mice directly into the retinas of adult mice that lacked functional rod-photoreceptors. After four to six weeks, the transplanted cells appeared to be functioning almost as well as normal rod-photoreceptor cells and had formed the connections needed to transmit visual information to the brain.
The researchers also tested the vision of the treated mice in a dimly lit maze. Those mice with newly transplanted rod cells were able to use a visual cue to quickly find a hidden platform in the maze whereas untreated mice were able to find the hidden platform only by chance after extensive exploration of the maze.
"We've shown for the first time that transplanted photoreceptor cells can integrate successfully with the existing retinal circuitry and truly improve vision. We're hopeful that we will soon be able to replicate this success with photoreceptors derived from embryonic stem cells and eventually to develop human trials.