Algae to Alleviate Blindness?

Stigeoclonium, chlorophyte green algae (Kristian Peters, en.wikipedia.org). 

Stigeoclonium, chlorophyte green algae (Kristian Peters, en.wikipedia.org). 

     Dr. Zhou-Hua Pan of Wayne State University has used channelrhodopsin-2, a protein found in green algae, to improve sight in blind mice. Very similar to some components of the eye, channelrhodopsin-2 is used by green algae to seek out sunlight; when light of certain wavelength makes contact with the protein, it opens its tunnel-like structure, allowing ions to enter the cell. 

    Eye disorders such as macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa cause the death of rods and cones, while leaving ganglion and bipolar cells intact (also responsible for our vision). The theory is that delivering channelrhodopsin-2 by gene therapy to the ganglion cells will allow light to enter and be interpreted by the brain. Genetically engineered blind mice received the gene therapy, and within 3 months were able to pass all vision tests.

     While scientists speculate that this therapy would result in some color blindness in restored vision, the technology is still quite amazing for those affected by macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa.

     The full article is available here from biotechin.asia, or through the link below.