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Neuroscientist Invents Technology to Cure Blind Mice (and Maybe Humans)

by Shane McGlaun

A neuroscientist from New York named Dr. Sheila Nirenberg apparently has made a medical breakthrough that allowed her to restore sight to blind mice. Now these mice can see how they run thanks to the nonsurgical procedure. The procedure involves something akin to Geordi La Forge’s visor. The process that restored vision to the blinded mice has the potential of being effective in humans as well.

The technique the neuroscientist came up with uses glasses that are embedded with a tiny video camera and a computer chip. Nirenberg envisions a day when blind humans will be able to wear Star Trek style visors and see the world around them. She believes that the system could be ready to test on humans within two years.

According to the scientist, blindness is often caused by diseases that damage certain parts of the retina that detect light and the neural circuitry that attaches the retina to the brain. The technique bypasses the damaged cells and sends encoded information directly to the brain. The breakthrough came when she was able to decipher the code of neural pulses that a mouse’s brain is able to turn into an image. The treatment for blindness in the mice included the prosthetic glasses and an injected gene therapy to activate ganglion cells that were still alive inside the mouse’s eye. The scientist says she has already figured out how to use the same process with a monkey retina, which is very similar to the human retina.

[via NY Daily News]

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