Scientists inspired by bats and snakes to restore light sensitivity
Researchers used gene therapy to successfully activate degenerated photoreceptors in mice
12 June 2020
German, Swiss and Hungarian scientists have worked together to develop a gene therapy approach that activated degenerated photoreceptors in a mouse model of retinal degeneration.
The research, which was published in Science, involved a three-component system to equip retinal photoreceptors with near-infrared sensitivity.
The system comprises engineered DNA, a gold nanorod that efficiently absorbs ultraviolet light, and an antibody that acts as a binding agent.
The researchers were inspired by species, such as bats and snakes, that are able to detect the warmth of near-infrared light and create thermal images of their prey.
Mice treated with the three-component system were able to perform a task requiring near-infrared stimulation while untreated mice could not.
Head of the visual circuit and repair group at the German Primate Centre, Daniel Hillier, highlighted: “We believe that near-infrared stimulation is an important step towards providing useful vision to blind patients so that they can regain their ability to read or see faces.”