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New chemical shows potential in treatment of blindness

20th February 2014

Researchers in the US have developed a chemical that has shown the ability to restore a certain amount of sensory capability to the blind.

A team from the University of California, Berkeley have invented "photoswitch" chemicals that are able to confer light sensitivity to ganglion cells, which are located on the innermost layer of the retina and remain connected to the brain even when degenerative blinding diseases have caused vision to be lost.

By altering the function of these normally light-insensitive ganglion cells using their new chemical, DENAQ, the scientists were able to restore light perception in blind mice for several days on a single injection.

Further testing on larger mammals is needed to assess the short and long-term safety of DENAQ and related chemicals, a process that will take several years, but this nevertheless remains a promising new field of research.

Dr Richard Kramer of the University of California, Berkeley said: "If safety can be established, these compounds might ultimately be useful for restoring light sensitivity to blind humans. How close they can come to re-establishing normal vision remains to be seen."

As many as two million people in the UK live with some kind of visual impairment, with around 365,000 of these registered as blind or partially sighted.ADNFCR-8000103-ID-801695894-ADNFCR

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