A brand new MIT Study on animals with lazy eye is showing promise for the future treatment of the common eye disorder. The procedure used on these animals has been called a "retina reboot" by members of the eye care community.
Researchers put a small drop of an anesthetic in the eyes of animals with lazy eye. This has the effect of temporarily shutting down the brain's connection to the eyes. Professors working on this study likened this therapy to shutting off a computer to flush out a glitch in the system.
This study took place in two labs at two different universities. Most of the study was conducted at the Bear Lab at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT, but some more research was done at the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Canada's Dalhousie University.
Doctors found that the animals' vision improved dramatically once the effects of the anesthetic wore off. They also found that there was no damage done to either eye. In fact, there were only long-term benefits observed from this therapy.
These animals were tracked for years after receiving this treatment method on numerous occasions. Head researcher Ming-fai Fong noted that the animals experienced a permanent vision recovery as they matured.
Lazy eye, or "amblyopia" in medical jargon, is currently the most prevalent visual disability in children under the age of ten. This disability is often caused by either a misalignment in the two eyes or a cataract developing in one eye at birth.
The most common treatment method used to correct lazy eye is using a patch over the stronger eye. This gives the weaker eye a "work-out" that, over time, helps to strengthen the eye's muscles and connection to the brain.
Unfortunately, there are many problems with the patch therapy. The first problem is that most children simply do not wear the patch due to bullying at school. The other problem is that if lazy eye is not caught before the age of ten the patch therapy doesn't work at all.
That's why eye care specialists are so excited about this latest MIT study. Although there is no evidence that these results can be replicated in humans yet, there is great hope for the future of lazy eye treatment.
The researchers note that they applied the anesthetic two days every week to the animals. There's no research into how many days a human would have to use these anesthetic drops for effective treatment of lazy eye. Researchers hope to apply their findings onto humans in the near future.
This "reboot" treatment method has also been tested on other eye conditions in recent days. Another study that used this kind of technique involved placing animals in complete darkness for ten days to study the benefits of monocular deprivation therapy.
Researchers in this study note that the anesthetic treatment is much more practical than monocular deprivation. They note that it is highly unlikely any child with lazy eye will ever stay in a dark space for any extended period of time.
This MIT study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.