Light sensible algae proteins restore perception in blind mice

Retinal degeneration is a major health issue and usually results in complete blindness of the patient. In this desease, the loss of photoreceptors in the retina (the light sensible layer of cells, covering the back of the eyeball) leeds to an absolute disapperance of light perception. Treatments, so far, are only capable of slowing down this effect. A swiss group around Botond Roska now was able to restore photosensitivity by genetically modifiing retinal neurons of a mouse model for retinal degeneration, called Pde6b (also called rd1-mice) (Lagali PS et al. 2008; Nature Neuroscience). [PubMed]
These cells were rendered to express a light-activated cation channel (Channelrhodopsin-2, a protein channeling loaded molecules), a protein derived from the single cellular green algae Chlamydomonas rheinhardtii (reminds me of my diploma thesis). Cells expressing this protein were reacting to light excitement, transmiting the signal to the brains visual cortex and enabling the treated animals to perform basic optomotoric behavioral patterns. This could be a promising starting point for new treatment regimens.

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