Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Lights Back On

Visual function restored by nanoparticles in a rat model of retinosa pigmentosa

02 August 2020

Lights Back On

At the backs of our eyes, photoreceptor cells react to light from the outside world, triggering electrical impulses in neighbouring neurons which fire towards the brain. These precious cells often degrade with age, disease, or inherited disorders, leading to progressive blindness. Yet this neuron from a rat's retina (stained turquoise with blue nucleus) has its sensitivity restored, after an injection of ‘photoactive’ nanoparticles (red). The tiny devices pepper the surface of the neuron’s membrane, looking like cat's eyes dotted along roads, although 10,000 times smaller. Responding to natural light, the nanoparticles take on the job of photoreceptors, activating electrical impulses in the neurons, which duly send visual signals towards the brain. While this new treatment has been tested on rat cells mimicking a genetic condition called retinitis pigmentosa, the hope is that a simple injection of these particles may help human patients, as well as those suffering from macular degeneration.

Written by John Ankers

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