Biochemically manipulating a light-sensing pigment to reset itself could aid the development of treatments for retinal degenerative disease.
In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used a modified version of vitamin A, locked retinal, to engage proteins central to human vision.
The proteins targeted by the locked retinal included light-sensing rhodopsin, which belongs to a family of proteins named G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs).
It is hoped that the newly discovered mechanism will aid the ability of scientists to turn proteins in the eye on and off.
Study author, Sahil Gulati, told OT that the findings suggested GPCRs could be reprogrammed into self-renewing machines controlled by external cues.
“This biochemically induced function will be helpful in treating people with vision impairment, and opens up several avenues for more efficient GPCR-based therapeutics,” he emphasised.
Further research would focus on designing a new class of modified retinals and testing its therapeutic potential.