Blind Mice Cured With Injection

By Amir Khan on July 26, 2012 3:08 PM EDT

The three blind mice may not be so anymore, thanks to a new finding by researchers from the University of California, Berkeley. They found that mice injected with a certain chemical regained eye sight, and while it may still be a ways away from working in humans, researchers say it's a positive step.

"The first drug candidate or prototype that directly restores photosensitivity," Richard Kramer, one of the study's authors, told ABC News. "With a drug, you can adjust its dose, discontinue it, or use in combination with other therapies. And this being a simple chemical, you can use chemistry to make it even better."

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Researchers studied mice with blindness similar to inherited and age-related blindness that affects humans, which occurs when rods and cones, the cells in the eye that responds to light, die off. They found that a chemical called AAQ can restore sight by activating the remaining living cells that normally don't detect light like rods and cones do.

However, the mice were not permanently cured. The treatment worked for a few weeks before it had to be administered again.

"Injecting something into the eye is something that surgeons do all the time," Dr. Marco Zarbin, chair of ophthalmology and visual science at the New Jersey School of Medicine, who was not affiliated with the study, told ABC News. "The idea that one would have to periodically repeat the injection is not a deal breaker."

One of the major benefits of AAQ, Zarbin said, is that it can be discontinued at any time if a better treatment comes along. In addition, it stimulates millions of cells at a time, unlike an electronic chip implant, which only works on a few thousand.

"That's got to improve a patient's light sensitivity," he said. "I'm as encouraged as I could reasonably hope to be by these findings. But you never really know until you've tried it in a person."

Researchers published their findings in the journal Neuron.

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