22 sept. 2015

¿Could algae cure blindness?

An algae found commonly in ponds could provide a cure for blindness, according to one US biotechnology company.
Retrosense, a Michigan-based firm, hopes to transplant a light-sensitive protein from a specific type of algae into the eyes of blind people, to restore their sight. The company will soon begin human clinical trials, after the transplanting process was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration last month, WIRED reports.
The algae, called chlamydomonas reinhardtii, is a simple, single-cell organism that lives in dirt and water.
It cannot see, but has a primitive 'eye-spot', allowing it to sense where the sun is and move around the pond so it is in the light. Then, it can convert the sun's light into energy through photosynthesis.

Like human eyes, the eye-spot uses light-sensitive proteins, one of which is called channelrhodopsin-2.
RetroSense are now hoping transplanting the gene for this algal protein into the eyes of blind people will help them to see again.
The gene will be put inside a vector, and injected into the eye, causing previously non-light sensitive cells to be converted into light-sensitive cells, potentially allowing limited vision.
The technology is known as optogenetics, and has been used by neuroscientists for decades. So far, RetroSense has tested mice, rats and non-human primates, with all species showing a return of some vision following treatment, Sean Ainsworth, the company's CEO, told Crain's Detroit Business.
Now, it is planning to use optogenetics in humans for the first time. They are recruiting 15 patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a disease of the eye that leads to loss of vision, for a clinical trial.
"We are looking to get it off the ground this year in the fall," Ainsworth told WIRED.
By dailytimes.com.pk