Although this doesn’t immediately translate to a cure for glaucoma in humans, however it could be the stepping stone.
Turns out even blind mice have a research purpose: a team of researchers have gathered a couple of blind mice, who have a glaucoma-like condition so as to find a cure for it.
By the end of their experiment, the researchers were able to restore the eyesight of the rodents. This is the first time scientists have been able to restore “multiple key aspects of vision in mammals.”
Currently there is no cure for glaucoma. Nearly 70 million people around the world are affected by it. Those afflicted with this health hazard have either their optic nerve busted or their retinal ganglion cells’ axons damaged or severed.
Ganglion cells are essentially responsible for transmitting images to our brain. You could think of their axons as 6 to 8 inch long wires that connect the eyes to the brain.
Before you jump to the conclusion that since this has seen success in mice, it can be replicated in humans as well, you might want to sit down for the not-so-good news: axons don’t regenerate in adult humans (and adult mice).
Here’s hoping researchers are be able to find a way to grow them back.
However, here’s how they managed to get their breakthrough. The researchers first covered the good eye and exposed the defective eye to “high-contrast visual stimulation,” which includes a constant rotation of a black and white grid. Further they made use of chemicals to reactivate the mTOR pathway, which essentially are molecular interactions that enhance cellular growth, within the ganglion cells.
The two techniques just by themselves did not have any material impact. But much to their surprise, the techniques when combined led to the growth of a “substantial numbers of axons” within just 3 weeks.
They knew they were successful in their endeavour when after the treatment, with their good eye covered, when they were shown an image of an expanding circle, which they interpreted as an approaching prey, they ran for cover.
Now if only scientists could find a way to regrow axons so as to cure glaucoma in humans. Keeping fingers crossed.