For years, experts have been struggling to get to the bottom of what causes night blindness, a condition that affects thousands of people around the globe.
Now, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, as a scientist from the Florida campus of the Scripps Research Institute has established how a particular gene makes night vision possible.
Kirill Martemyanov, an associate professor on the campus, published a study in The Journal of Neuroscience, which focused on a gene called nyctalopin, mutations in which result in inherited night blindness, or a loss of vision in low-light environments.
Professor Martemyanove explained that, until now, the understanding of the role of the gene in the visual signalling pathway has been very limited.
"This is the first time we have uncovered a functional role for it - and we linked that function to a much larger molecular complex that"s needed for low-light vision."
In the study, experts searched for proteins associated with nyctalopin in the mouse retina, as they knew that the gene encoding nyctalopin is one of the most frequent causes of night blindness.
The results revealed that the protein expressed by the gene acts as a form of molecular "glue" that holds together key elements of the signal transduction machinery at the synapse, allowing for the rapid and intact transmission of these sensory signals.
According to Professor Martemyanov, the role of nyctalopin may even go beyond the eye and affect the central nervous system, which could lead to many new therapies being formulated.
It comes after separate ophthalmologic research recently published in archives of Ophthalmology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals, revealed that frequent visual field testing may be associated with earlier detection of the glaucoma"s progression, possibly paving the way for new treatments for the condition.
by Emily Tait