Compound makes blind mice see by making cells photosensitive

A new compound, developed by scientists at California University, Berkley, US, has allowed blind mice to see temporarily. The compound, delivered by injection to the retinas of mice genetically programmed to have no photoreceptors, binds to the potassium channels in neurons activating them to become recptive to light. However, the compound AAQ (for acrylamide azobenzene quaternary ammonium) eventually wears off, much like pain killers, which also work on ion channels.

In the work, which is published in Neuron, the scientists tested the ability of the mice to see by observing pupil contraction in response to light and the animals becoming averse to light, just like their sighted relations. However, it is unclear what sort of sight is actually achieved. Further work is obviously needed, but for those suffering from diseases that mean that normal photoreceptor cells in the eye die off, this new work could offer hope for the future.