Friday, November 10, 2006

Stemming blindness?

Study offers clues to eye regeneration
Researchers announced yesterday that they have restored vision in mice by implanting new light-sensing cells in their eyes, a scientific first that offers hope to millions of blind people

Scientists have worked for decades on ways to regenerate the retina, the layer at the back of the eye where the light-sensing cells are located, but there has been a renaissance brought on by rapid advances in stem cell biology. The new work is a surprise, however, because the team did not use stem cells -- and because the results were significantly better than previous transplant attempts.

For the experiments, the researchers transplanted cells that were developing into rods, but which had not fully matured . For humans, there is no ready source of cells at this developmental stage, but researchers may discover how to generate them from embryonic stem cells or possibly even from eye cells taken from the patients, according to Dr. Robert E. MacLaren , who led the research. MacLaren is a surgeon at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London and a scientist at the University College London Institute of Ophthalmology.

The team, which included scientists at the University of Michigan and in Japan, also provided evidence that the rod cells were functional. They transplanted the cells into mice bred to have cones, but not rods, in their eyes. The pupils of eyes treated with the cells dilated more than untreated eyes when light was shone on them, according to the paper.

The work is impressive, but the team needs to prove more definitively that the rod cells are forming functional connections to the brain, said Michael Young, a neuroscientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and Harvard Medical School.

And whilst on the subject of mice, ...

JET-lagged mice die younger, researchers say in a study that suggests that working unusual shifts and flying back and forth across time zones takes a big toll on health.
Tests on more than 100 mice showed that old mice forced to live on a confusing schedule of light and darkness, simulating rotating shifts or international travel, died sooner than those on gentler schedules.

Young mice treated in a similar way did just fine.... [Bastahds!]

What kind of species of animal are we creating with all these mice experiments, eh Darwin?

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