Researchers in Australia claim to have made a major breakthrough in glare research, showing how an innovative form of gene therapy can be used to treat the degenerative disease,media New Atlas reported. The technology has been shown to be effective in repairing and protecting damaged optic nerves with unprecedented results, providing hope for addressing irreversible forms of vision loss affecting millions of people around the world.
As the main cause of irreversible blindness in the United States, glare occurs because the nerves connecting the brain and eyes undergo sustained damage, usually due to excessive eye pressure, resulting in the interruption of visual information relay. This type of optic nerve cell damage is irredeveable, although further damage can be avoided through various treatments.
At the heart of the new study is a protein called protrudin and the gene responsible for producing it. Protrudin usually has low levels in non-regenerative neurons, and a team of researchers from the Australian Centre for Ophthalmology and the University of Melbourne set out to see if they could be motivated.
The experiments were conducted in laboratory cultures, where brain cells grow and are damaged by lasers. A gene was then added, which successfully raised the level of protrudin in the cells, which in turn improved their ability to repair and regenerate.
In tests on the eyes and optic nerve cells, the researchers found that the technique regenerates significantly weeks after injury. In one experiment, nerve cells from the mouse retina grew in cell culture, often leading to large-scale cell death, and the technique was designed to provide them with almost complete protection.
“What we’re seeing is the strongest regeneration of any technology we’ve ever used before,” says Professor Keith Martin of the Australian Eye Research Centre. “In the past, it seemed impossible to regenerate the optic nerve, but this study shows the potential of gene therapy in this area.”
The team plans to conduct further research to explore how the technology can be used to protect and regenerate human retinal cells, and possibly even restore vision.
The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.