Glaucoma researchers restore partial vision in blind mice

A group of Stanford researchers may have just made significant progress in finding a way to cure or treat Glaucoma, the illness that gradually leads to blindness. In an experiment involving blind mice with a glaucoma-like condition, they managed to restore partial eyesight in the animals, the first time for such an accomplishment in mammals.

With some 70 million people suffering from glaucoma worldwide, the illness is caused by damaged retinal ganglion cells, which are responsible for transferring the images we see to the brain via their axons, a type of thin nerve. In both mice and humans, these axons don't regenerate, which is why the scientists chose rodents for an experiment on re-growing them.

Interestingly, the researchers found success by combining two techniques that made little difference when used on their own. The first was to cover a mice's good eye and present "high-contrast visual stimulation" to the bad one, with the second being the use of chemicals to stimulate molecular interactions known to reactivate ganglion cells' mTOR pathway.

After three weeks, the mice were found to have grown a "substantial numbers of axons," so much so that they could perceive a potential threat using only their bad eye. There's still a lot of progress to be made, however, as the mice still failed situations where more precise vision was needed, such as stepping off the edge of a ledge made by the researchers.

There's still hope this technique could one day be used to benefit humans with glaucoma, but the scientists say they need to be able to regrow a higher number of axons before that can happen.

SOURCE Stanford