Doctors may one day treat some forms of blindness by altering the genetic program of the light-sensing cells of the eye, according to School of Medicine scientists. Working in mice with a disease that causes gradual blindness, the researchers reprogrammed the cells in the eye that enable night vision.
Courtesy photoSome blind patients, as well as some blind animals, still show pupil constriction in response to light.We use our eyes to see, but a good deal of recent research has demonstrated that the eyes are responsible for other functions, too. Russell N. Van Gelder, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences and of molecular biology and pharmacology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has teamed with researchers at several other institutions to learn more about the eye’s second, non-visual system that is important to the body’s internal clock, as well as to other functions such as hormone release. Studying mice, the research team found that even in blind animals, it is important for the eye’s non-visual system to continue working. They believe damage to this system in the eye may contribute to several health problems in humans, even in people with normal vision.