“We have made blind fish recover their vision by adding a light-sensitive molecule to the tank’s water that has a pharmacological effect on their retina,” explains Pau Gorostiza, researcher subscribed to the Catalan Institution of Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA) at the Institut de Bioenginyeria de Catalunya (IBEC), which has more than ten years working in the development of light regulated drugs.
These drugs could be useful for the treatment of retinitis pigmentosa, one of the most common causes of blindness in the Spanish population, in which the photosensitive cells of the retina are lost but the neurons behind them are preserved. A light-regulated drug could replace the function of lost cells and directly stimulate neurons so that the light signal reaches the optic nerve.
To carry out the project, IBEC has partnered with Miguel Hernández de Elche University, the University of Alcalá de Henares, the Center for Research and Development of the CSIC and the Institut de la Màcula de Barcelona.
But “we are still far from being able to offer a treatment to patients,” Gorostiza warns. First it is necessary to get a suitable drug because “the one we have tried in fish is not yet good enough for clinical use.” The drug should be sensitive to the colors that the human eye captures; it should be activated and deactivated as quickly as the photosensitive cells of the retina, since otherwise the image would take time to form or take time to extinguish; it should be activated even in low light; and, of course, it should not produce unwanted effects.
Once this drug is obtained, it should be tested in human donor retinas and in different animals before starting trials in people. The work plan envisages testing in mice, mini-pigs and, if the drug is safe enough, also in blind dogs. These tests are essential to check if, in addition to restoring sensitivity to light, visual acuity can also be restored, that is, the ability to distinguish details and contours with sharpness.
Source: Agencia ID