Melanopsin study "offers hope to blind people"

Melanopsin study "offers hope to blind people"

A new study into the process of how people perceive light of varying brightness may eventually lead to new therapies for those with advanced retinal disease or even blindness, it has been claimed.

The report, published by the University of Manchester, suggests that retinal ganglion cells known as mRGCs, which take information about the brightness of incoming light directly to the visual centres in the brain, still perform a function in blind people and those with severe visual impairment.

They are responsible for being "messengers" for melanopsin – the body"s light sensor – and experts at the university found that the axons reach all the way to the lateral geniculate nucleus, which acts as the brain"s primary processor for visual information sent from the retina.

Senior author Dr Satchidananda Panda, an assistant professor in the Regulatory Biology Laboratory at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, said that it may one day be possible to create a gene therapy with re-engineered melanopsin which could help blind and visually-impaired people.

"If we could express melanopsin in a greater number of cells, we might be able to increase resolution to a point that allows blind people to safely navigate their environment," he suggested.

A recent study by the Stanford University School of Medicine in California suggested that people suffering from retinal degenerative diseases involving retinal pigment epithelial stress may benefit from treatment involving mTOR pathway inhibitors.

by Martin Burns

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