0347 GMT January 18, 2020
Mice who had become blind after experiencing retinal degeneration — where cells in the retina begin to die off and are not regenerated sufficiently, affecting one in 2,000 people — were given their vision back by scientists who performed stem cell transplants on the rodents, express.co.uk wrote.
The researchers behind the ‘exciting’ project are now planning to conduct human trials in an effort to restore sight to blind or partially sighted people.
The mice in the study had stem cells which were grown into small patches of light-sensitive retina grafted into the back of their eyes.
The study is the first of its kind to have photoreceptors — which convert light into signals and then relay the information to the retinas and brain — transplanted into host cells and then to successfully send signals.
The results of the research, from Japan’s RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology, showed that blind mice who had a successful transplant were able to distinguish light.
Leader of the study Dr. Michiko Mandai said: "We showed the establishment of host-graft synapses in a direct and confirmative way.
"No one has really shown transplanted stem cell-derived retinal cells responding to light in a straightforward approach as presented in this study, and we collected data to support that the signal is transmitted to host cells that send signals to the brain."
Senior study author Masayo Takahashi said that although the results are promising, there is still some way to go.
She said: “It is still a developing-stage therapy, and one cannot expect to restore practical vision at the moment.
"We will start from the stage of seeing a light or large figure, but hope to restore more substantial vision in the future."