The benefits of vision

Using damaged eyes to see patterns helped to restore vision in animals in new glaucoma study

A high-contrast pattern

High-contrast patterns, in combination with chemical neural stimulation therapies, have helped mice with optic neuropathies like glaucoma to regrow their nerves.

The rodents also had their vision partially restored, in the US National Eye Institute (NEI) research.

The animals received a gene therapy treatment that boosted the production of a bodily protein involved in optic nerve regeneration, known as mTOR.

Some of the mice were then exposed to changing black-and-white patterns to stimulate their visual systems, in the study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

This group, especially when they could not use their ‘good eye’ in preference of the one that was damaged, recorded significant regrowth of their nerve cells in comparison to the others who did not view the patterns.

Over three weeks of the research, the nerves in the treated mice grew 12 millimetres and at a rate 500 times faster than untreated nerve cells.

NEI research director, Dr Paul Sieving, emphasised that: “This research shows that mammals have a greater capacity for central nerve system regeneration than previously known.”

The animals also had their vision tested, and the combination therapy had the best results in comparison to those of the untreated rodents.

Fellow NEI researcher, Thomas Greenwell, the retinal neuroscience programme director, said: “The study’s striking finding that activity promotes nerve regrowth holds great promise for therapies aimed at degenerative retinal diseases.”

Image credit: Life of Riley