A study funded by the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Eye Institute (NEI) has successfully reversed congenital blindness by changing the supportive Müller glia cells in the retina into rod photoreceptors.

Conducted in mice, the research is expected to help in advancing regenerative therapies for the treatment of blinding diseases, such as retinitis pigmentosa.

Photoreceptors are light-sensitive cells in the retina that signal the brain upon activation. In mammals, including humans, photoreceptors cannot regenerate on their own.

NEI retinal neuroscience programme director Thomas Greenwell said: “Rods allow us to see in low light, but they may also help preserve cone photoreceptors, which are important for colour vision and high visual acuity. Cones tend to die in later-stage eye diseases.

“If rods can be regenerated from inside the eye, this might be a strategy for treating diseases of the eye that affect photoreceptors.”

During the initial phase of the study, the researchers injected a gene for activating the beta-catenin protein in order to trigger Müller glia in normal mice.

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.
“If rods can be regenerated from inside the eye, this might be a strategy for treating diseases of the eye that affect photoreceptors.”

After certain duration, these mice were injected in the eye with factors required to stimulate development of the newly divided cells into rod photoreceptors.

Microscopy was used to visually track the newly formed cells. It was observed that the new rod photoreceptors were similar in structure to the original photoreceptors.

The new cells were also able to form synaptic structures that enable the rods to communicate with other types of neurons in the retina.

When assessed in mice with congenital blindness, the Müller glia-derived rod photoreceptors were found to be functional as they could communicate with other retinal neurons across synapses.

Currently, the researchers are conducting behavioural studies to determine if the ability to perform visual tasks has been restored in the mice.

The team also intends to investigate the application of the new procedure on cultured human retinal tissue.