Saturday, January 29, 2005

Retinal Cells and Melanopsin

From the BBC:

Doctors Make Eye Cells See Light
Scientists have found how to make eye cells sensitive to light, opening new ways to treat some forms of blindness.

Experts at Imperial College London teamed up with colleagues at the University of Manchester to study a protein, melanopsin.

Activating melanopsin in cells that do not normally use it made them sensitive to light, they told [the scientific journal] Nature.

[snip]

But experiments on mice which have had their rods and cones destroyed, reveals that other cells in the retina also have some form of light response.

Scientists have suspected that melanopsin is important to all of these 'light sensitive' cells.

The London-Manchester team set out to study melanopsin in more detail.

In mice, they found turning on a gene for melanopsin caused nerve cells to work like photoreceptors.

Although making cells in the eye responsive to light is not a cure for blindness, the researchers are working with engineers to develop prosthetic retinas that might help people with sight disorders to see more clearly.

[ ... Read the full report ... ]

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