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Scientists might be able to change the cells in blind people’s eyes, giving them the power to see again.

Scientists might be able to change the cells in blind people's eyes, giving them the power to see again.

If the rods and cones that make up the photoreceptors of the eye fail because of injury or illness, then people can lose their sight entirely. Now, scientists hope that they can use gene therapy to transform nerves in the eye to replace those lost photoreceptors.

The technique has been developed by Zhuo-Hua Pan of Wayne State University in Detroit. It is part of a new field called optogenetics, which uses molecules from algae or other microorganisms that respond to light, or creates molecules to do so, and put them into nerve cells to transform them so that they can receive light.

Now the scientists hope that they can use the technique to restore the sight of blind people a technique that has already worked on animals. Studies in humans could begin next year.

Optogenetics is a form of gene therapy, and works by changing the makeup of the damaged cells. But since it only converts rather than edits genes, it is not likely to cause the same kind of ethical and practical problems that blight work on other forms of gene therapy.

Source: www.independent.co.uk  (prepared by science and technology information center)


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