Scientists believe that they can have an FDA-approved treatment allowing millions of people to regain their lost vision in two to three years. There have been successful tests with blind mice (six out of 14 have restored visual function and reflexes). This is all thanks to a new method of synthesizing lost cells.
Macular Degeneration & Synthesizing Lost Cells
Age-related macular degeneration (also referred to as MD) affects millions of people every year. So far, the study of MD has proven itself to help understand aging as a whole. MD is usually one of the first places that scientists look to when it comes to repairing the damage of aging and restoring youthful function.
A new paper shows an alternative to stem cells by creating replacement photoreceptors from skin fibroblast cells via pharmacological conversion. This process will be cheaper, faster, and unburdened by ethical and legal restrictions.
Containing the generic code for every protein we need to build and repair old cells, DNA can become damaged over time through the stress of life. Similarly to how scratches or cracks in a CD prevent lasers from reading the disk’s information, damaged DNA makes it difficult and even impossible for our RNA to understand the genetic information contained therein.
14 Blind Mice
Scientists from the Retina Innovation in Dallas, TX, found five compounds that can drive embryonic fibroblast cells to convert themselves into photoreceptors in both mice and human cells.
In their study, these converted photoreceptors were transplanted into the eyes of 14 blind mice, and 6 of them restored visual function and reflex in the pupil. Usually, mice with working vision prefer dark spaces, and an interesting fact about the six mice is that they also preferred spending their time in a dark area (rather than the bright space that was also created for the mice to choose during the study).
A Hope for Humans
The same method can turn out to be successful in treating blindness in people, not just mice, which will revolutionize the field of ophthalmology. Even though they still need to overcome the ethical and political restrictions and hiccups about using embryonic human stem cells, scientists are optimistic that an FDA-approved treatment could be out in two to three years from now.