Your Healthy Family

Aug 8, 2012 12:26 PM by Lacey Steele

Your Healthy Family: A Cure for Blindness?

Researchers are closer to finding a way to restore sight for patients blinded by certain types of macular degeneration.

Here's more in today's Your Healthy Family.

Research shows injection therapy may hold more promise than previously thought.

In a typical eye exam doctors look for changes in the eyes, but for those who live with blindness there's nothing doctors can do to bring their sight back.

"Macular degeneration has been a condition that we haven't been able to do a lot for," said Dr. Sanford Feldman, Scripps Health. "For many years we had no treatment. We had to tell people, 'Go home, use more light, use magnification, but we really can't help you.'"

Soon that could change.

A team of researchers at UC Berkeley found a temporary return to vision to blind mice by injecting an ammonium chemical.

The chemical increases the sensitivity of light to the eyes which allowed the mice to see.

"It's the first sign that we can actually inject something into the eye that will reverse the damage done to cells called photo receptors which cause blindness," said Dr. Feldman.

The ability to inject chemicals to cure blindness is a greater step than previous research that has been more permanent, like gene therapy.

"The chemicals are gone when they're gone," said Dr. Feldman. "So, if it doesn't work or it causes problems, the chemical is out of the eye and essentially you've turned off the treatment. You don't have to worry about what it might be doing from that point on."

With over three million people affected from visual impairments, this step could be a way for doctors to finally help the blind patients they never could before.

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